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Carmen's taonga presented to Te Papa

Fri 1 Nov 2013 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

Old friend Dana de Milo caries one of Carmen's headdresses into Te Papa As a collection of her gowns, headdresses and other taonga were this morning welcomed into the Te Papa collection Carmen Rupe was remembered as "an irresistible and irrepressible force" as well as for her kindness. Politicians, family and friends of the transgender icon and representatives of the gay community present for the welcoming ceremony included Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Carmen's brother Francis Rupe, and friends Dana de Milo, Georgina Beyer, David Hartnell and, from Sydney, close friends Robin Waerea, Jurgen Hoffman and Diego Brown. Wade-Brown noted that many of the things Carmen included in her 1970s mayoral bid manifesto, including decriminalisation of homosexuality and prostitution, bars open past midnight, the drinking age lowered to 18 and sex education provided in schools, had subsequently come to pass. "If I had lived in New Zealand at the time I am sure I would have voted for Carmen," Wade-Brown said. In a speech which highlighted Carmen's background and upbringing Tariana Turia recommended to the gathered Te Papa hierarchy that the museum's restaurant, "Icon", be renamed "Carmen's Place." Close friend David Hartnell said that he has kept every letter Carmen wrote him over several decades. He listed the words "iconic, controversy, kindness, friendship and fashion" as being amongst her positive attributes. It was noted by most speakers that Carmen always wanted her taonga gathered into the Te Papa collection and that she always loved the place "because it was free." Kirstie Ross, Te Papa’s curator of modern New Zealand history, says Carmen’s collection reflects a time of significant change in New Zealand’s history. "These objects are from the collection of an iconic and iconoclastic Wellingtonian and New Zealander. Carmen was a key personality from a period when official attitudes towards homosexuality, prostitution, and even alcohol licensing were not as liberal as they are today.” Gowns, headdresses, poi and other items including jewellery were accepted by Te Papa today, as well as a lavender-painted policeman's helmet originally worn by an officer who arrested Carmen in the 1960s.  The items handed over today will join the first group of Carmen's taonga, which were acquired by Te Papa in 2006.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Friday, 1st November 2013 - 7:42am

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