top of page

Artefacts and Taonga 2023 # 1

We have been delighted to connect once again with the Christchurch Heritage Festival for a series of masterclasses with young writers ages 11-17.

In 2023 we collaborated with the team at the Christchurch Archaeology Project, using artefacts found after the earthquakes beneath the now Te Pae site.

Our young writers responded to the idea of artefacts/ taonga in different ways.

We made list poems about our own possessions from childhood, wrote odes to the artefacts, created a persona story or poem for one of the artefacts and finished by reflecting on the taonga we treasure or regret having lost.

Here are some offerings from the Tuesday class.

Bomb Bottle

Diarna, Year 13

A grungy bomb sits on the table.

The two eyes from the embossed ‘LONDON’ on your blue-green glassy skin

glare at the modern world.

I see the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘what could have beens’.

The fizz-filled explosions, a family squabble, and a broken cork.

The mischief in your sideways stance shares

the ‘could have been’ stories you have tucked away.

A sad bottle, an unfulfilled bottle.

A clean dining room, a spiritless family,

no cork to burst and no purpose.

Sometimes, the best thing we can be

is just somebody else’s rubbish.

Ode to artefact- Torpedo Bottle

Polly, Year 9

Torpedo bottle you have a certain splendor,

A purpose to serve, one which we regard.

Age did not break you nor take away from your younger self.

Your unique form, much like that of an oval,

With letters to embellish, you hold such a simple beauty,

Your captivating appearance, a glance into the time in which you once existed.

But then what is your story?

To whom did you belong?

To a young man or an elderly woman?

Were you made by a careful craftsman or a rowdy worker?

And how did you get here?

A voyage at sea?

Did the waves rock your boat or did the clear skies promise you safety?

For how long did you sit upon your shelf watching those who passed you by?

As I look upon you I see,

a bottle that once sat upon a shelf,

a bottle that was discarded without a second glance,

a bottle that remained hidden for many years,

a bottle that was discovered,

a bottle that was recognized and regarded for its true splendour.

Ode to the Leather Collar

Charlotte, Year 7

Leather-wrapped around a tale it tells,

History in its threads where the past dwells.

Brass tag chanting a country code,

In Christchurch, time down the road.

Back in 1861, a city's appeal,

Dogs running wild, not as they should be.

Paper complaints, inked and bold,

A collar born from laws of old.

Māori communities, unfairly spoken.

Colonial whispers promise broken.

Yet in your leather, stories persist,

A simple collar, you're all now on a list.

In quiet musings, I contemplate,

What does it mean for a dog to change its fate?

The dog collar, now a mystery in its own right,

Whispers of connections, lost in the night.

Leather, brass, and time collide,

A trinity strong, in you, they bide.

Oh, dog collar, simple and true,

In your form, tales renew.

Rusty’s perspective

Charlotte, Year 7

In the bustling streets of Christchurch, there lived a spirited dog named Rusty. He roamed on the cobblestone paths, his fur kissed with the winds of freedom. However, the year 1861 brought a change—a city's plea echoed through inked complaints. Dogs running wild, a nuisance, they claimed.

Amidst this uproar, Rusty found himself the recipient of a weathered leather collar, complete with a brass tag etched in a mysterious county code. It was a proclamation, a mark of order in the chaos. As the collar embraced his neck, Rusty felt a shift—a connection to a tale older than his wanderlust.

Rusty wore it proudly, a symbol of resilience against the unfair winds of prejudice. The collar became a silent storyteller, carrying the weight of history on Rusty's carefree haunches.

On the day it arrived, Rusty couldn't help but wonder—was it meant for him, a rover under the open sky, or did it signify a home's invitation? With each step, the collar seemed to answer in whispers lost to the wind.

In quiet musings beneath the Christchurch stars, Rusty pondered the mystery wrapped around his neck. As Rusty continued his adventures, the collar held onto the stories of a city, a dog, and a bond woven into the fabric of time. And so, the spirited wanderer and the weathered collar danced through history, leaving pawprints on the cobbled canvas of Christchurch's narrative.

Unable to Understand Fault

Chloe, Year 7

Ewer, you have a handle that reaches high at its peak

Your pour reaches a greater height

Beautiful flowers imprint your brim, trickling down to your base

But does it compare to the cherub with a porcelain face

and a plump belly engraved on your pale surface?

You serve no good

as cracks cobweb across your form.

Dirt and grime seep into your shards,

No purpose, no strength, no allure, no use and no grace.

You try so hard to hide your true appearance but why face the struggle?

Why steal the soft features of an angel now shattered into five different shards?

You linger as a delightful ewer

But in all of truth's light, you are no more than someone who has stolen another's glamour

Why be called a ewer when you do not serve this purpose?

Label yourself; faulty.

Lost Words

Chloe, Year 7

In the past, I've thrown away many things but the thing I regret throwing away the most is my writing from primary school.

Starting in year three when things became more academically challenging I had no idea if my writing was good or bad so I just assumed that it was trash and if someone was given the choice of writing my writing or drinking poison they would have chosen the latter. This was the main reason why I started to hate writing as a whole. I threw away all the notebooks I wrote in at the end of the year because I found it more disgusting than a million street rats that had just come from the sewers. If I were to go back in time I would tell my past self to keep them so that I would be able to see how much I've improved my skills since then.

Ode to Commie Marble

Emerald, Year 7

You're like a planet, but with a volcano bursting higher than countries.

Your type brings joy to other people, making them laugh and have fun.

Because you are cheap, easily made, affordable.

Making many people who can’t buy the silvery, glass marbles.

The poor people own you,

The rich people look down on you.

You’re made in different colours,

And your name, commie, stands for your living,


You might have been disgusted because you aren’t the same as those that are truly common

Your shape could have made the owner throw you out.

You have something attached to you, that shatters your circle shape,

Causing you to not be able to roll

You leave dust and dirt.

Why and how did that get attached to you?

Was it there when you were made?

Did it accidentally mould into you when you were still drying?

Why do you have holes?

Is it because you were made from clay?

Do you deserve the hate because you can’t meet your purpose?

Do you?

The porcelain vase

Emerald, Year 7

If you were still alive, my mother would

love to display you in our kitchen

with your delicate hands clutching onto

the tulip that is now half broken and

shattered to pieces.

The tulip still draws

the attention of passersby,

detailed and a stunning sight for the eyes.

The bottom of your wrist shines a pleasure

looking shade of blue with white pearls

wrapped around it and a diamond in

the middle.

A white, majestic pattern lies below the

blue band. But it looks like it is slowly

fading away as It holds this swirl kind of

pattern. At the very bottom, you can notice

a yellow crystals-looking crown

But what enchants me the most is what is

on your middle finger. On your middle

finger, you hold a rich, gold ring.

But it’s not just a normal circle ring,

it has a delicate crown shape

What’s more, because your ring is

resting on your middle finger,

it represents you as an independent,

responsible and resilient person

The kind we need all around the world.

But now, looking at you, separated into

collapsed pieces, my heart aches.

knowing that you could’ve had a much

better life with an actual flower laying

inside of you, blooming forever and ever.


Emerald, Year 7

Out of the massive amount of things I threw away, the one I regret the most is my old diary that our homestay student gifted to me when she was leaving. She was from Japan and she gave me a diary with a cute silver cat on the cover. For years, used it and it was the start of my obsession for diary writing.

The book was not too thick or too thin, like a children’s book. It was the size of a normal notebook but a little thinner. The pages were thin and I really liked it. The front of the cover was, yes, the cat, but also a silver glitter kind of thing. The type where there is a kind of squishy water inside of the cover and if you squish it, it would be rather… satisfying. The pages inside the notebook had lines and a drawing of something in the corner of each page. You could write the date on a spot that is made for just dates.


Isabella, Year 12


I sigh as I look away from the window and down at my slate covered in wrong answers and scribbled-out numbers. I reach for the cloth once again. Now with a clean slate, I carefully write 22 before looking up and out the window again. Even John is finished with his equations, and they are all racing their hoops down the road. I wish Ma would just let me go play, but instead, I am stuck inside doing arithmetic of all things.

Looking back down at my slate I sigh again, this is just impossible but I so want to play with my new hoop so I write down the equation again. 22 plus 126. Why does arithmetic have to be so hard? I detest the scratchy sound that my pencil makes on the slate as I try to work out the equation. 22 plus 126 is 148! I did it!

“Ma, Ma, look, I’ve finished my arithmetic!” I stand up from the kitchen table so quickly that my chair falls backwards. “May I go play now?”

“Yes, you may.” But as I run towards the door she yells after me, “Tidy up before you go!”

I stop. I was so close. With my head hanging I walk back to the kitchen table pick up my slate run to put it back in my room.

“Be back by supper time!” Ma says as I run out the door, and go find the other kids to show them my new hoop.


“Oh, that’s so cool,” I say as I look at the broken writing slate on display at the library, its cool grey surface marred by various marks and scratches.

“What is it?” Rebecca asks, coming over to me.

“A writing slate from the late 19th century.”

“Awesome, I wonder what they were doing.”

“Something with the number 22 by the looks of it.”

I stand there looking at the slate while my friend moves on to other things. I wonder what life would have been like for them, what kind of math would they have been doing? Did they like it? Life was so different then, what would they think of us now?

This slate is a message from the past, echoing a common experience through generations and showing how far we have come. A window to another time.

Papa's Clock

Isabella, Year 12

An artefact that I want to preserve is the clock that Papa made. I remember sitting in his workshop in winter and watching him do woodwork; the smell of sawdust in the air and the sound of various power tools as we talked or just sat in silence. He loved making things with his hands, it kept him sane, especially as Nanny was such a sociable and talkative person and he was not. It was his escape and his safe place. He’d been making clocks for years.

When they were moving out of their house Mum wanted one of his clocks but because we were in New Zealand, no one kept one for us. So when an elderly couple from our church in Canada told us that they had been given a clock that he had made and gave us the option to bring it home with us or donate it to the church in their memory, Mum jumped at the chance to have something that Papa had made.

It’s a wooden clock in the shape of an open book with rustic design black hands for the clock on one side and a picture showing the story of the good shepherd on the other. Mum remembers watching him make clocks of that design and it was one of her favourites. The grain of the wood stands out because of the clear resin. I really love this clock because it reminds me of Nanny and Papa. Even though we couldn’t go and visit very often we still have something that he made with his own hands in our house.

Secrets of the Pill-Bottle

Keziah, Year 9

You, the pill-bottle,

Old, weary,

Tired and dreary.

You’re dirty but proud,

Now quiet when once loud.

You performed amazing feats,

And calmed raging seas.

You deserve filled-up seats,

And a peaceful summer breeze.

Your uneven edges tell of wars unknown,

You were dropped and thrown,

By creatures of flesh and bone.

What have you gone through to be this sad?

What has made you so mad?

What war have you fought?

What peace have you sought?

The tales you have to tell,

Of being the holder of death,

Of being the cause of someone’s last breath,

Do they stay?

Do they fade to grey?

But I think I understand,

Why you won’t accept a helping hand?

You never spared a thought for yourself,

You only ever had a life upon the shelf.

Patricide by Poison

Keziah, Year 9

What are the grounds for murder? Stealing? Cheating? Embezzling from your own family? Well, my father has done all three. So I killed him.

It was a dark night, moonless and quiet. Father was downstairs, throwing another ostentatious house party for his mob of aristocratic friends. Each one was just as bad as the next, I thought every one of them must have been involved with their fair share of alleyway murders. While they were drinking their hearts out, I crept down an empty hallway, wincing with every footfall. The moon cast dancing patterns across Father’s door as I slipped it open.

The room was spacious, covered floor to ceiling with stolen items. It reflected my Father’s personality; large, over-loud and completely unnecessary. I stepped inside. After a brief moment of holding my breath, I confirmed I was in the clear. Acting quickly, I found his bottle of Norton’s sleeping pills and replaced them with my special concoction of death. I slipped out of the room and shut the door carefully behind me.

Now all I had to do was wait. It could’ve been that night, or the next week, or even in a month’s time, whenever the next time he needed a sleeping pill was. But it would come. My father would pay for his crimes.

Summer joy

Ngan, Year 13

Janky jandals

Bikes handles

Sunny days

in alleyways

I lie flat

with a bucket hat

The blue sky

vast in my eyes

Pink hand fan

Summer tan

Ripe mangoes

Toes in the sand

Childhood friendships

Sharing hair clips

and rubber bands

The Artist

Sophie, Year 10

Two children chased each other up the steps, momentarily disappearing into the chalet, before bursting onto the balcony of the second floor. A fisherman, casting off from a bridge nearby, motioned for them to be quiet. The noise subsided, peace returning to the calm morning, as the children disappeared inside. The artist sighed, and, carefully removing his binoculars, turned to the easel beside him.

Three hours later, satisfied, yet famished, the artist rolled up his work, and, dismantling his easel, headed into the sweet-smelling Swiss afternoon. The fast train took him away from the peace and quiet of the country, back to the bustling, smoggy city, where he followed the maze of streets to a quiet shop on the outskirts. Unveiling his scroll, the artist presented his design to his boss.

Early the next morning, the artist sat, paintbrush in hand, with a simple, yet useful ceramic bowl in front of him. Brush poised, he took a deep breath, before painting on the base of the bowl, the scene he had enjoyed yesterday. Swiss wildflowers bloomed around the rim, with simple strokes of his hand. Dissatisfied, yet unable to change the lack of colour available in the blue and white colour palette, he moved on. Finishing the inside of the bowl, the artist gently tipped it on its side and began to paint the picture again.

Proud and satisfied with his work, the artist carried the bowl through the swing doors, starting down the stairs to the shop. Hearing a commotion on the stairs behind him, the artist paused. 'Bam!' Someone slammed into him from behind, the force of the collision knocking the bowl from his hands. Horrified, he stood helplessly, watching the bowl arc away from him, colliding with the wall, before bouncing down the rest of the stairs, cracking as it went. Heartbroken, the artist dragged his feet down the rest of the stairs, collecting the pieces of his precious bowl as he went.

Childhood memories

Diarna, Year 13

Cheetahs escaping the zoo

Scraped knees

My Pounamu

My plastic toaster

Rusty trampoline

My swingset

And Lego limousine

Loom bands

My training wheels

Boy bands

And gross banana peels

Nelly and Kelly

Being hyper from jelly

Snoop Dogg’s raps

My old collection of caps

Grape juice on Christmas

Being superstitious

The yearning to fly

I watch time go by

Little things Polly, Year 9

Fruit toothpaste, a moving truck, Barbies and Nancy Drew Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Brain Break, Winne the Pooh Furbees, and my hobby horse, Milly Molly Mandy The redwoods, dolls and old-fashioned candy My pull-along buzzy bee, strawberry shortcake, gel shoes Hot chocolate, my bunny rabbit and the 6 o’clock news The big, old oak door with a small brass key These things from my early childhood made me, me.

Cold Cream

Diarna, Year 13

“Everything must be perfect for today” I mutter to myself. Hastily, I open the lid of the ceramic container. A beige ointment covers my fingertips and my face grows colder as the Cold Cream becomes lathered into my skin. For a moment, everything is still. A pale freckle-spotted face with cerulean eyes and honey coloured hair stares back at me from the mirror. Why am I so nervous?

A long pearly dress glows from the back of the room, yearning for me. Its long train is blanketed in intricate lace patterns that stretch up to the bust. I slowly lift myself from my stool and step towards the dress. My fingertips explore the delicate fabrics and I close my eyes.

An organ echoes through the church, ringing in each ear. A roomful of eyes stare as my breath becomes shakier with every step I take towards the altar. Glistening stained glass begins to warp, the ground melts, and the sweat from my brow grows heavy. My eyes open. A bellowing monotone voice begins to speak “Do you, take this man as your lawfully wedded husband?”. A hardened silence fills the church. Do I?

What I wish to preserve

Diarna, Year 13

You can’t really preserve things that aren’t physically there, but you can preserve the object or piece that reminds you of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and memories. My Pounamu doesn’t just represent my Māori whakapapa, but my personality, goals, achievements, my past, my present, and my future. My Pounamu is me, and though I am mortal, if I can preserve an object that I deem to be part of me, then the reminder of Diarna can live on.

The Life of Luxury

Alyssa Year 7

The yellow and orange colours change

with the warmth of the bright flame,

ascending like a rainbow.

I wonder where I could place

such a magnificent lamp

to bring warmth to my home.

The intricate design catches my eye,

the handle feels like a rock, it feels smooth.

I want to take it home to display

yet this luxury is not in my league,

there’s too many numbers on the price tag.

Why should I be surprised when I knew it

from the beginning, the care taken

and the materials used.

Oh how I wish I could take it into my care.

Now I’m standing in the store, disappointed.

I am nothing but broke so I shall go now.

I leave the shop with empty hands.

They're out of my league so I should steer clear.

Goodbye dear, dear lamp.

The bell rings to say that I’m never coming back.

Bear Grease

Polly, Year 9

The bells rang out as I entered the store, it was quiet and deserted. A lone elderly man sat smiling behind the counter. I meandered through the shelves placing miscellaneous items into my bags, mentally checking them off the list in my head. I brushed my hair from my face, today was unusually hot. As I reached for a cooling bottle of pop my hand skimmed a small round tub. Intrigued I pulled it from the shelf ‘Russian bears grease’ it read.

Amused at the idea of bear remnants in a dish I asked the shopkeeper what it was for.

“Growing back hair”

The picture of my husband’s bald head rushed into my mind. I mean, how can he stand resembling a potato? You best believe I got it right away, eager for it to work its magic. So I took it home to my husband, who didn’t even thank me! All I got was an “I like being bald” grumble He said it was phoney. I flew out the door in anger. I mean, how dare he!

Later that day I marched to the store. I would prove to him it was real, but who do I see leaving the store? My bald husband. I stormed into that store and a small tub of bear grease was on the counter. The old shopkeeper smiled at me as he took it into the back room. I grabbed another tub and took it home. From now on I'll put it on his head whilst he sleeps. He’ll thank me later.

Memory List

Keziah, Year 9

My teddy bear,

My tiny snare.

The snow of home

The hot chocolate foam.

My wall of books,

The nasty looks.

The play-fighting,

The whale sightings.

The fake sword,

My love of the Lord,

Harry Potter,

And shouts of “We forgot her!”

The smell of jet fuel late at night.

The blanket of clouds, what a sight.

London, Cardiff and someplace else.

My really annoying bleeding felts.

A huge thanks to the Christchurch Archaeology Project ( especially to Jessie for turning up each day to share her passion), Christchurch Heritage Festival and the team at Tūranga.

(c) The Young Writers and Write On 2023


bottom of page