Carmen's brother Francis Rupe and artist Te Mete with the unveiled portrait What has been billed as "The final painting of Carmen" was unveiled at a private function held in Wellington this afternoon to mark the gift of some of the transgender icon's personal effects to Te Papa. The work of internationally recognised gay Maori artist Te Mete, the painting was unveiled before an invitation-only gathering of over 60 friends and whanau of the late Carmen Rupe, held following this morning's hand-over of taonga Carmen herself had directed be entrusted to Te Papa. In a relaxed setting speakers including David Hartnell, who knew Carmen since the 1960s, Wayne 'Miss K' Otter and Dana de Milo who knew and worked for the celebrity madam and coffee-shop proprietress in their youth, and retired police officer Trevor Morley who was a vice squad member who had to arrest Carmen in the 1970s, regaled the gathering with intimate, humorous and sometimes bawdy tales of the character and exploits of Carmen. Amongst other other insights, ex-MP Georgina Beyer and one-time prostitute Georgina Beyer told to great laughter of how Carmen took her in as a sexually questioning youth, "a new queen on the scene," and provided her with her first client. Stories, waiata, performances, laughter and tears mixed throughout the afternoon which, combined with this morning's taonga handover, Carmen's close and long-time friend Dana de Milo described as providing closure. "Bringing some of her things back here has provided a bit of closure... it really hits home that she's gone," De Milo says. She found it "very, very moving" coming onto the Te Papa marae, "and I was close to tears... Carmen would have been very proud of today and I'm certainly proud for her." She says she felt "very humble and very blessed" to be chosen to carry one of Carmen's headdresses into Te Papa. David Hartnell issued a challenge to the glbti communities to keep the pressure on Te Papa to show Carmen's taonga, "to not leave them in the closet."
First published: Friday, 1st November 2013 - 6:38pm
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