Tue, Dec 10, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Best at rugby, top of the charts: the joy of being a Kiwi

The singer Lorde and Man Booker prize winner Eleanor Catton have become ambassadors for a cultural renaissance that is transforming the way the world looks at New Zealand

By Toby Manhire  /  The Guardian

The sun does not shine everywhere. The New Zealand screen industry is teetering on the brink of crisis, victim of a strong currency and a tax-break bidding-war to attract big US productions. Incomes are dwarfed by Australia’s. A housing bubble looms. Thousands in Christchurch continue to live in miserable conditions, locked in insurance disputes almost three years after it was struck by a major earthquake.

And the biggest story of the last month has been achingly inward-looking, focused on a group of alleged young male sexual predators in West Auckland who have avoided police charges despite complaints of rape from girls as young as 13. The impact has been palpable: as if the country had been struck in the solar plexus, winded.

It was at about that time that Gracewood posted the images of Catton and Lorde together in New York. It was a kind of tonic. “Sonja and I sat in a cafe and thought: this is going to make so many people happy right now, this is a perfect distraction,” she says. “This is going to bring to the front pages what should be on the front pages.”

On her blog, she put it like this: “As the Ella/Ellie photo was shared and shared again, I watched happiness and delight spread across Twitter and beyond. We forgot for a few minutes about what else was leading the news. We celebrated Ella and Eleanor’s successes. We delighted in the fact that they found each other in a massive foreign city, in the midst of their career whirlwind, and shared the moment with us ... The timing was good.”

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