Here journalist Todd Niall explains how his interest in the Trekka brought him into contact with New Zealand artist Michael Stevenson. On Thursday 26 June Te Papa hosts a talk by Todd who discusses the Trekka – the vehicle and the art work. In conjunction with his talk Te Papa is running a competition, find out how to enter below.
“My first encounter with the idea that the humble Trekka could become a work of art came in 2002. I hadn’t heard of Michael Stevenson until he contacted me about a two-part radio documentary I had produced the previous year, the first telling of the Trekka’s story.
Michael was deep in research on the Trekka, for a work which would become New Zealand’s entry at the Venice Biennale the following year.
Both of us had memories of the Trekka from our younger years, and each in our own way had become fascinated by the story that it told of a period in New Zealand’s history.
As a journalist, mine emerged as a factual documentary, Michael as an artist, was telling it his way.
Michael generously shared material and knowledge, and I made a few contributions in return. I realised that if ever there was a time to tell the Trekka’s story in a more tangible and permanent way – a book – now was the time.
So as Michael worked on his installation, I went back on the hunt for more avenues and angles to pursue, and quickly realised there were plenty more layers than I had captured in the radio programmes.
I set up a research trip in 2003 which allowed me to take in the official opening of Michael’s This is the Trekka in sweltering heat in Venice. I had been able to make a minor visible contribution. The ‘Trekka’ number plate had been mine, received as a gift from a member of the family whose firm produced the Trekka. The plate had been made for a display at the Field Days in Hamilton.
The trip to the opening resulted in another radio documentary ‘Trekka goes to Venice’. From there I visited the Volkswagen archive in Wolfsburg, and people in the Czech Republic who had been part of the Skoda/Trekka project in the 1960s and 70s. I published the book The Trekka Dynasty the following year.”
Enter our competition
Do you have a story about the Trekka? Te Papa would love to hear about it. Email your story (300 words or less) to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday 25 June, by 5 pm.
The best 5 stories will receive free copies of Todd’s book The Trekka Dynasty. The winners will be announced at Todd’s talk.