On time, on budget, and on land

New Zealand's mashriqI live on the continent of Zealandia which is mainly underwater. Years ago, my community considered building an underwater temple. Scuba diving is a big tourist drawcard in New Zealand and the new temple, “Unity in Divers’ City”, would have been a magnificent and prestigious addition to the pantheon of continental Baha’i Houses of Worship. However, the cost, the poor acoustics and losing an entire choir on their first rehearsal, put us off. We settled for a second-hand temple that was intended for the continent of Antarctica and we haven’t looked back.

Bring thyself to account each performance

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 1996
To: National Spiritual Assembly
From: Steve Marshall
Subject: Review of living works of art

Dear friends,

I’ve just read the item in New Zealand Baha’i News – “All Baha’i art works need approval from the national body”. I’ve been an artist and a Baha’i for many years but have only just realised that my art work needs to be reviewed.

I am a living work of art, engaged in a continuous performance with an ever-changing audience. I do, at times, mention and depict the Baha’i Faith as an integral part of my creative output, and this is why I can now see that I do need to seek a letter of approval from you. The main difficulty I have is that my artistry is not adequately represented by a cassette recording, a photocopy or a manuscript. My artistic efforts are largely situational, and are very reliant on spontaneous interaction with people who can be drawn into being co-creators of artistic experiences.

I’m sure a solution can be negotiated and that it can be done in quite a creative way. I look forward to interacting with you over this conundrum.

ka kite ano,

National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of New Zealand

24 October 1996

Steve Marshall
90 Blacks Road
Opoho Dunedin 9001

Dear Baha’i Friend

Review Process for Artistic Works

The National Spiritual assembly was very interested to receive your email dated 14 April and must apologise for not getting back to you sooner.

In order to give you constructive feedback the National Spiritual Assembly would need to know a little more about what you actually do and how you depict the Faith. At this stage your art work seems more along the lines of a personal teaching activity rather than something which needs review or approval. the approval mentioned in the National Newsletter relates more to the mass produced/commodity type of art rather than to one-off experiences.

If you need more help with this matter please tell us if this is the case and give us some more detail about your particular art work.

Warmest Baha’i love
National Spiritual Assembly
Suzanne Mahon

Cold calling

“That was in 1992…”
“That was in 1992…”

In 1992, a seasoned NZ reporter, Peter Jessup, checked out the Baha’is and wrote a half-page article for one of the major dailies. He found “a quiet, uncomplicated faith and a creed of equality”.

Door-knocking was obviously not part of the repertoire, and the faith appeared “to have a particular attraction to people from the entertainment field, the liberal, thinking middle class, and students”. Jessup observed that, “the faith has traditionally been kept quietly, in accord with teachings that people should seek it out rather than have it seek them”. He also noted that “Baha’ulla’h (sic) predicted a destructive end to the 20th century that would bring about a rebirth”.

Well, it didn’t pan out as anticipated, and perhaps the Baha’is got tired of waiting for folks to seek out their quiet uncomplicated faith. I’m certainly seeing a change of culture from what Jessup observed in 1992.

Vitriolic, nasty, vicious letters

diagram of the new baha'i administrative structure

Here’s a treat for you: An extract, in video format, from Peter Khan’s, talk at the New Zealand National Teaching Conference, in Auckland, June 2000 (AVI, 5.5MB).

The House of Justice has been appalled in recent weeks to receive vitriolic, nasty, vicious letters from New Zealand Baha’is concerned about actions the House of Justice took with regard to a believer from the South Island. I’m sure you are aware of it. These letters are not many, there are a few of them, but they’re probably the worst letters I have ever seen written to the House of Justice and they came from people who are part of the New Zealand Baha’i community. That, if nothing more, is an indication of the need for a far greater attention to this issue in this country as well as in other countries. New Zealand surely doesn’t want to go down in Baha’i history as the community that has produced such nasty correspondence. Correspondence of such a kind that I am embarrassed to have my secretary see it because of the kind of language that it uses. Anyhow, be that as it may, it’s their spiritual problem and they will deal with Baha’u’llah as they wish. But the point is that here it is an indication that something is fundamentally wrong with the Baha’i community in this country in terms of its depth of understanding of the covenant and the authority of the institutions of the Faith. What you take as normal is not normal, but abnormal.

Excerpts from a talk given by Peter Khan

Comment: The Cormorant Baker itself

Titi / Sooty Shearwaters

Baquia asks:

I have an uneasy feeling that this question may come back to bite me in the nether regions but it must be asked:

What is a Cormorant and what did it ever do to you to deserve baking?
The Cormorant Baker appreciates your interest. He is a bird-lover, but in a special way. In order to delve into the origins of the phrase “cormorant baker”, some research using Google is required. The following sources are recommended:

  • “This project involves measuring and monitoring harvests of Sooty Shearwaters (Puffinus griseus – Procellariiformes) by Maori on islands off the southern coast of Stewart Island. Maori call this bird ‘Titi’, but it is colloquially known as the ‘Muttonbird’ and the traditional harvest as ‘Muttonbirding’.”
    Source: Post doctoral position – seabird population ecology
  • Yes, we eat seagulls. Why do they taste so good? A combination of bad diet and poor parenting, I think:
    “The young are fed on regurgitated oil digested from the fish eaten by the parents. Pilchards, shrimps, sprats, small squid are some of the catch. The parents do not come home every night but when the chick, which may have been on its own for up to ten nights, is ultimately fed by regurgitation, its intake is tremendous. Its growth is spectacular and [it] seems to thrive on the irregular diet.”
    Source: Titi, the sooty shearwater
  • In mid-2002, references were made on Beliefnet to cormorants baking in the sun.
  • Again in mid 2002, Rod Wicks used the term in some correspondence on BeliefNet, and later in 2004.

I hope, one day, you will have an encounter with the cormorant.