What to pack, how long to stay and what to do - plus photos.
So you’re thinking about applying for an artist residency at the New Zealand Pacific Studio? Here are my tips - and pics - from my stay.
What should I pack?
I stayed at the coldest time of the year, when frost blanketed the grass well into the morning and snow covered the nearby mountain ranges. Regardless of the time of year you’re staying, it would be prudent to bring warm clothes - after all, you will be staying in an historic villa. I’d recommend slippers, sneakers, fingerless gloves, a warm jacket, merino layers and a light raincoat. Don’t forget your sunnies - and some shoes that you don’t mind getting wet (hiking boots would be ideal). You’ll also need your usual creative gear (laptop, art materials, printing paper)… and your camera! Don’t worry if you forget to bring something to read - there are bookshelves in almost every room.
What technology is available?
There is wifi, and printers / scanners.
How long should I stay?
It took me a few days to get into the rhythm of being in a new place. Between that and the number of fun things to do in the region, I would recommend staying for at least two weeks - preferably longer!
What is there to do?
There are some lovely walks nearby. For pastoral pleasure you can walk up and down Kaiparoro Road, which is almost opposite the New Zealand Pacific Studio. Alternatively you can turn right down the highway to check out the pretty ANZAC Bridge and a lovely short bush walk through Miller’s Reserve, or left towards the Pukaha Bird Sanctuary, where you can take a two-hour walk to the lookout and back.
There are also plenty of towns to explore. Eketahuna is just a few minutes up the road by car (there’s a great cafe and some lovely gift stores), the larger town of Masterton is half an hour away, and Carterton and Featherston are nearby too. A day trip to Wellington by train is also highly recommended.
While reading a beautiful photo book about the Wairarapa (Wairarapa: A Place Apart - photos by Pete Nikolaison, text by Michael Wall) from the NZ Pacific Studio library, I came across the following paragraph:
"Forty two kilometres north of Masterton we reach Eketahuna which, for reasons which are not entirely clear, many New Zealanders consider to be a mythical place; a kind of Antipodean Brigadoon. But be reassured, Eketahuna is there right enough and, if the town has never figured out how to turn its ambiguous celebrity status to its advantage, it has erected several large Kiwis to reassure visitors that they are still in God's Own."
Charmed by this description I turned to the internet for more information, where Kiwi Slang revealed that the slang definition of Eketahuna is:
"The middle of nowhere. The archetypal small country town with few amenities and which nobody is expected to know anything about. Similar to Timbuktu, and the mythical town of Waikikamukau."
Well I am here to tell you that Eketahuna does exist, and that this morning I had the lovely experience of chatting to radio announcer Hugo Manson live on the local radio station, which is run from the War Memorial Hall.
I also checked out the fantastic local cafe (which had a roaring fire), some tantalising gift stores... and of course, several large Kiwis.
And if you still don't believe that Eketahuna exists, you can check out this song by Mike Harding - it was inspired by the town.
Kathryn van Beek has a doctorate on the topic of 'writing for positive change', and an MA from Victoria University Wellington Te Herenga Waka’s International Institute of Modern Letters. She is a winner of the Mindfood Short Story Competition and the Headland Prize, and she was the 2023 Robert Burns Fellow and Winston Churchill McNeish Fellow. Her collection of short stories, Pet, is available as a podcast, and her work has also appeared in Overland, takahē, Newsroom, and the Sunday Star-Times. She lives in UNESCO City of Literature Ōtepoti Dunedin.