Above From left: Guardians of Aotearoa writer Johanna Knox and photographer Jess Charlton.
In early December we were extremely proud to read that the New Zealand Herald had selected Guardians of Aotearoa: Protecting New Zealand’s Legacies by Johanna Knox and photographer Jess Charlton as their ‘Book of the Year’ for 2018.
Books editor Dionne Christian had this to say on her selection:
I picked it for three reasons.
Firstly, we’ve heard a lot of talk this year about “New Zealand” values and what it means to be a New Zealander in 2018. At 272 pages – smaller than some – and without being in the least bit didactic, Guardians of Aotearoa packs a whole lot in and captures the can-do spirit needed in a tumultuous and ever-changing world.
Secondly, environmental heroes were to be the book’s original focus but as Knox so sensibly explains in her introduction, “how do you divorce the natural environment from people and culture? We’re part of a whole. Everyone in this book cares doggedly about the planet and its life, but their work rarely fits one tidy category.”
I was delighted when I opened the book and found myself reading about Amit Ohdedar and Sudeepta Vyas who founded Prayas Theatre, which just goes to show the depth and range of the subjects.
To read the stories of these 39 disparate Kiwis who are “preserving skills and knowledge or restoring and protecting our environment or the values that are part of what it means to be “New Zealanders” is to feel admiration for these individuals but also hope.
We could all do with feeling more optimistic about the future so that’s the final and, perhaps most important reason I chose Guardians of Aotearoa: Protecting New Zealand’s Legacies as our 2018 NZ book of the year.
You can also read an article by the book’s writer Johanna Knox over at The Big Idea, on defending art: why art is a necessity, and not a luxurious extra. You can read her full article HERE.