Earlier today on her Tumblr, New Zealand writer Karen Healey, who has based some of her work in Christchurch and lived here just recently, posted a love letter entitled "To New York, From Christchurch, With Love"
. It referred to an article by a New York based writer who was scathing about her time spent in Christchurch, and how backwards the city was.
I started to write a commentary, then decided it deserved a place on my blog. So here it is, in it's heated glory, no filter, from my heart.
"It is not a good idea to make a deadly and very recent natural disaster the snappy conclusion to your sad travelogue. It is not okay to talk about how much you disliked a place and how down it made you and then casually mention that large chunks of it are now destroyed, because whether you meant it to or not, that comes across with a very strong hint of “and thank goodness.” The 2011 earthquake is not an excellent metaphor for your failed, destructive, romantic relationship - unless your relationship killed 185 people and shattered the heart of a city.
That conclusion is not clever, nor wryly amusing. It is glib, nasty, and oblivious to the very real pain that cracks through the city Curry so despised."
Holy shit, I...*pinch nose, breathe*
As an author trying to make it in POST earthquake Christchurch, this hurts on so many levels. Our arts scene was pretty rad before the quakes. Sure you had to go looking for it, and have some sort of in - even now the Christchurch arts scene can be a little pretentious and insular, but once you know a few people, there are amazing art nooks and crannies to be found. I can understand the author's culture shock and level of being cut off. But DAMN, the first thing you do is start making friends around the place, and she was in Lyttleton, basically arts and hippie central, where I'd love to move to because of all the incredible artsy folk there.
Hell, of COURSE this isn't freaking New York City. But even social anxiety 2006 little ol' me could tell you where to find that pizza, bagel, enchilada the author so craved - just walk down the main streets of the CBD. The city was MASSIVELY packed with art and culture - just pick up the weekend newspaper, or talk to someone at a coffee shop, or go stand in the Arts Centre on Worscester Boulevard any damn weekend.
Well of course, those things are near impossible now. But there's still art and culture, and our weekend newspapers are still packed with it. It's not on a New York level, hell not even on a Wellington or Auckland level, but we take what we can get around here, and damn if it isn't incredible the resilience and determination on display.
It hurts even MORE because our arts and culture is doing this amazing twist and resurrection post earthquake. People have recognized that to make something of living in a broken city, there has to be joy. They started bringing that joy back mere weeks, maybe days after the quakes. Christchurch arts just didn't shrivel up and die, it stood up in defiance and say "Stuff you man, you can't break us".
We're leading the world in outer spaces art fixtures (Gap Filler) because our arts centre and galleries are closed. We have people doing theatre and performance in any damn place they can find (from school halls to churches to The Court Theatre who have temporarily built their facility out of CARGO CONTAINERS). The New Zealand Film Festival this year was spread over many theatres, but we were still the first in the world to see Jim Jarmucsh's "Only Lovers Left Alive"; our arts cinemas (I love you Alice Cinematique and Academy Gold), born from the rubble, are playing some sensationally good line ups.
And from personal experience, my writer's group has been an absolute life line to my sanity in the last 3 years.
It makes me angry to think of some incredible authors who make Christchurch their home who have battled and worked through some really tough times post earthquake, and still put their damn books out. This woman should talk to Helen Lowe and Jennifer Fallon for starters, ask what it's like to keep writing while digging your broken home out of piles of liquefaction, or living in half your house while it's rebuilt. She should talk to the authors who have taken the pain of the earthquakes and turned them into incredible stories and books. Talk to me and the other Christchurch authors about "Regeneration".
You. Do. Not. Talk. Shit. About. My. City. Yeah, there are days where I DESPISE living here because everything is so broken, but goddamn will I stand up and shout from the rooftops about how our arts community has rebounded and made something incredible from tragedy.
If I didn't have my writing, my "night job", having to live here in Christchurch would have broken me. It was bad enough what I went through on that day. You do not get to invalidate my art, and the art that sustains Christchurch. Just...come at me bro.