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Frances Walsh, Writer, New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui a Tangaroa

The creative force was strong in Bob Gerrard, a Glaswegian-born carpenter who emigrated to Aotearoa in the 1950s. He built and painted about 50 smallish, non-seaworthy wooden arks—referencing the biblical story of Noah who saved the human race from extinction and a global flood by loading his family and two of every living creature on Earth onto his homemade boat.
Artwork: Mall Flanders Ark, Bob Gerrard, 1996, New Zealand Maritime Museum | Hui Te Ananui a Tangaroa 2018.106.1

Bob titled this 1996 ark Mall Flanders, after the eighteenth-century novel Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, about the adventures of a woman who had a big heart. Above the waterline there’s a shop which sells seahorses and another which hires life jackets; a milkshake parlour and a rat catcher’s office. Roaming across the hull are dinosaurs, chimps, koalas, sharks, mermaids, a snake charmer and two men riding high on an elephant. Bob mashed up epochs, architectural styles, and religious persuasions in his whimsies which he called ‘Victorian conversation pieces’. While not a shipwright by trade he studied boatbuilding techniques, and made the hulls using the carvel method, laying planks edge to edge and fastening them to a frame. He reckoned the curved shape lent dynamism to his scenes and figures.

To see more examples of Bob Gerrard's work on Kōtuia, see here.

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