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The Spirit of the Land

Hedgehog by Terry Hawkins
Jason Dench, Manawatu Sculptor
Acknowledging the strong links between creativity and wellbeing, Kimbolton is hosting the NZ Rural Sculpture Awards and Festival in an effort to create a healthier, and more creative community.


Traditionally known as a farming town, the northern Manawatu township of Kimbolton has created a festival to celebrate and enhance creativity in their community.

The Kimbolton Sculpture Festival, incorporating the newly created New Zealand Rural Sculpture Awards, takes place on 28 April 2018, and organisers are calling for entries.

The festival is a borrowed concept from the Australian town of Lockhart, a town of 800 people experiencing dark times and developing mental health situations as a result of an ongoing drought. The Lockhart festival is now in it its 10th year and has eveolved into a four day event. 

Adapted to a New Zealand setting, the Kimbolton Sculpture Festival aims to celebrate the spirit of New Zealand’s land. Spokesperson for The Kimbolton Arts and Sculpture Trust, Paula Allen said the competition is pitched at both professional artists as well as those with a creative bent keen to have a go.

Tapping into people’s reluctance to identify as artists, the competition is an opportunity for people to take a step into art and try it out, “which isn’t easy,” Paula says. Approaching a very creative farmer she knew and encouraging him to enter the competition, Paula said he responded with, “Oh no, I couldn’t talk about myself as an artist. I’m a farmer that’s a bit of a welder.”

Farming is often a very tough and demanding environment so tuning into their creative side – outside of conjuring up creative ways to fix a hole in fence, can be a challenge that farmers think they just don’t have time for.

“We know there are a lot of talented people in the regions. We hope that by giving them support and encouragement it will become more normal for rural people to describe themselves as creatives – artists, sculptors, musicians and poets,” says Tony Waugh, Chair of the Kimbolton Arts and Sculpture Trust.

“We are looking to provide an incentive for anyone who works land or has something to say about the NZ landscape to leave their worries about making ends meet behind and engage with bigger ideas.  It seems to us that providing a platform for creativity is a positive alternative to being focused on problems.,” Waugh says.

“There’s a lot of talk about ‘the problem,’” says Paula, referring to emerging mental health issues now being spoken about publically in farming communities, “but not all that much talk about the solution. Talking is only one of the ways to combat loneliness and self-doubt. Letting your imagination go and creating something because you can is another.”

“Everyday farming is really lonely,” she says, “working long days on your own gives a lot of time for reflection. In my experience, farming people tend to be quite philosophical, because they’ve had the opportunity to think about things other people don’t in the hubbub of a busy city office environment. But there’s not much of an outlet for them. The environment doesn’t allow for a lot of expression.”

Not just for farmers, The New Zealand Sculpture Awards are made up of the following categories:

  • The New Zealand Rural Sculpture Award (Open)
  • The New Zealand Creative Cocky Sculpture Award (Open to people who have made a living from the land)
  • The New Zealand Small Sculpture Award (For sculptures smaller than 1m)
  • The Local Yokel Award (Open to those living within a 30km radius of Kimbolton)
  • The Young Persons Award Individual (Open to students from schools within a 30km radius of Kimbolton)
  • The Young Persons Award Group (Open to students from schools within a 30km radius of Kimbolton)

Entrants are encouraged to give expression to their cultural heritage and their unique experience and interpretation of ‘The Spirit of the Land’. Sculptures are to be constructed predominantly from recycled farming or associated rural agricultural materials, including any natural or manufactured materials commonly associated with farming or rural landscapes.

As well as showcasing the sculptures, the festival will also feature top quality locally produced food and all-day live music and entertainment.

With the money raised from the festival, Paula said they hope to facilitate workshops and events that foster and grow creativity in the Kimbolton community. She said eventually they hope to raise enough money to purchase sculptures for the village.

With a population of approximately 1500, Kimbolton sits 20 minutes north of Feilding. It has become an increasingly popular commuter town to Palmerston North and Feilding. It is home to an annual fair, held at the beautiful Cross Hills rhododendron gardens, and has recently become home to an intentional Christian community who run the local café, and among other things, make and sell handcrafted furniture, tiny houses and American barns. “It’s always been a slightly alternative community,” says Paula.

The town is actively trying to grow a more creative and engaging community, and Paula says, “If you want to live in a lively creative community, you need to create events to attract likeminded souls.”

To borrow a sentiment from Paul Kelly, “From little things, big things grow.” And using Oamaru’s Steampunk Festival as a gauge - that saw farmers join the steampunk movement and start tinkering and getting creative in their sheds, I think the Kimbolton Sculpture Festival could be the start of something big for this little town.

For more information about the festival and awards, visit

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