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The (retail) plundering of the continents…

…results in Kiwi-“flavoured” tea-towels.

Some people search out exotic specialties and luxuries when they travel, studying the ethnographic crafts and traditional handworks unique to the region.  I admire this, but don’t seem to be able to accomplish it for my own trips.  I want small, light, unbreakable, useful, evocative, and cheap I mean AFFORDABLE.  So, I often come back with tea-towels.

Here’s the lot from the recent NZ jaunt, heavily skewed toward the delightful kiwi bird, whose image is favored by native Kiwis and tourists alike.*

Note that the Kiwi-images go from pared down black-and-red graphics to clunky four-color screens, woven jaquard to printed; all delightful.  Favorite?  Hmmm… hard to choose: is it the iconographically egalitarian one with many of the delights of NZ (geysers, plants, Maori artefacts, and of course Kiwi birds)?  Or perhaps the educational design which, although fact-filled conflates the concept of species and Breed, calling itself “Breeds of Kiwi”, as if Kiwi birds, like sheep and cattle, were engineered in size and type by and for us humans? Or, the patchwork Kiwi, or the Kiwi and cabbage trees?  Hard to say which is most satisfying, the most Kiwiish.

Added to the aesthetic pleasure of these simple souvenirs is the memory they evoke of the Kiwi obsession with clean “benches” (= kitchen counters) — as the ever-present (and evidently necessary) signs in the communal motor park kitchens reminded us everywhere.

Bottom line?  Every time I dry dishes at home, I will recall the joys of “wiping the bench” after not only our own dinner preps, but also that of 7 or 9 footloose Continental twenty-somethings who just finished fixing their Spaghettis before us….  Ahhh, the Campervan Life…

*Philosophical postscript: I wonder, do the Kiwi people tire of Kiwi bird imagery the way Southwesterners get weary of cheesy rip-off Kokopellis, or coyotes with bandanas?  Maybe not.  Personally, I never tire of chile pepper renditions, especially those with sombreros on their “heads”… (Those must be some tiny hats!)

Lexical postscript: the plural of Kiwi (the bird) is Kiwi.  The plural of Kiwi (a person) is Kiwis.

Commercial postscript: Many (if not all) of these tea towels are the work of the Derek Corporation, whose motto is: “Representing New Zealandness.”  I am not making that up, it’s their perfect and proud motto.  Check out their souvenir line here.

Posted by Allison on Jun 4th 2009 03:40 pm | No Comments yet
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