Te Papa Exhibition Gallipoli: The Scale Of Our War


It’s been a few years since I’ve visited Te Papa in Wellington - officially known as Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Situated at Wellington’s waterfront, a prime piece of real estate as well as tourist friendly, being walking distance from the CBD and a few minutes away from Oriental Bay.

The museum is free to the public - there is even a free coat and bag storage service onsite (donations are welcomed). It definitely came in handy on my visit, as I had checked out of my motel that morning and having my pack with me would have been an inconvenience. It was a wet day in Wellington and walking around in a wet jacket in a museum wasn’t ideal either.

Te Papa has six floors of varying temporary and permanent exhibitions. Maps are available on the ground floor, and there are plenty of information desks at different floors. Food options are pretty decent, and prices are no more than a local cafe. The main cafe is on the ground floor next to the gift shop, and the other on the fourth floor. I felt this is where most of the adults found solace from the school groups.

For those needing wheelchair or mobility assistance, there are wheelchairs available at the main entrance. It’s best to book ahead as they have limited numbers available. There is elevator access to most, if not all exhibitions. I didn’t really come across narrow spaces that hindered wheelchair access, except maybe in the more popular displays that were targeted at families, especially young children.


Gallipoli: The Scale of our War

The exhibition is in collaboration with Weta Workshops

We had studied World War I in school. There was a lot of focus on Gallipoli - teaching us about the brutal ANZAC campaigns and how it (and subsequently World War II) had robbed many towns and cities of a generation of men. No community escaped the melancholy of war - and even those who survived the bullets and shrapnel, their minds did not. For myself, born in a generation that has never experience a world war (or lived in a war torn country), I hope that we are not naive enough to think it won’t happen again. Exhibitions like Gallipoli are necessary to remind us that war is futile - the great loss of life is no victory for either side.

When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!
— Ted Grant

These photos were originally taken in colour, and as I edited them I was reminded of Ted Grant’s quote above. Each exhibit was massive in scale - often standing at least 3m tall. The craftsmanship and attention to detail was exquisite - the shrapnel wound that tore the flesh of a soldier’s knee was haunting. When I closed my eyes I could almost smell burning flesh and dried blood as flies swarming. Each sculpture represented a life, often lost in battle.


As I made my way through the various displays, reading the many stories and listening to the audio testimonies, I couldn’t help but feel tears begin to well up. I’m not sure how anyone could walk through the exhibition unmoved, questioning our society’s humanity that justified the incredible loss of life. It changes you, hopefully becoming more compassionate to the living, just as we try to honour those who have passed.





Ronna Grace Funtelar is a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and slam poet currently based in New Zealand. She is a hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast with a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone.

Basically, a shorty who knows her life purpose.