Everything about NZ WOMAD 2019 reminds me of the Christchurch shootings

On Friday 15 March 2019, a white supremacist terrorist shoots and kills 50 Muslims at prayer and injures another 48. At the same time, NZ WOMAD —a festival of unity and tolerance and hope — is about to begin. My body and half my mind is at WOMAD.

Instead of opening the festival, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern makes an announcement about the Christchurch massacre. And so it is that every beautiful cameo of WOMAD takes me straight into the new reality of New Zealand, now officially part of the global community of internet-fuelled neo-Nazi terrorism.

For the next two days I was spaced out and split between these two worlds, and I know this was a common feeling. Again and again, some little charm of WOMAD was linked to the weeping people of Christchurch.


A swan protects her cygnet. An international band plays on the WOMAD stage. A three-year-old boy is among the 50 murdered in a Christchurch mosque by a terrorist.

Festival goers sitting on a sloping lawn while flags fly high.

The flags of NZ WOMAD flying high. Not national flags. Not designed to fly half mast.

Photo of many children playing on and under a huge tree.

Children playing together under a mighty tree at NZ WOMAD: they don’t know each other. They don’t shoot each other. They just play.

Messages of love and support outside the New Plymouth mosque. The chldren write, "We are so sorry." "You belong here" "You are home."

Messages of love and support outside the New Plymouth mosque. The children write to the Muslim community in Christchurch, “We are so sorry.” “You belong here.” “You are home.”

A song for our times: “Welcome home” by Dave Dobbyn.

15 thoughts on “Everything about NZ WOMAD 2019 reminds me of the Christchurch shootings

  1. Ingrid Ward says:

    I love what you have shared here – so simple, so real and so very healing.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:
    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you Ingrid for your generous response. Thanks also for links to the song AROHA and the website Return to love NZ. As you know, I don’t include any links in Comments, but I appreciate your thoughtful spirit.

  2. rhinophile says:

    I was really sorry to read hear that the shootings in Christchurch happened on the same day as the beginning of WOMAD.
    It is good that the weekend was not cancelled, as, from what I understand, which is not much, one of the purposes of terrorist attacks is to make us live in fear of continuing on with normal life. I also felt sorry for the students around the world who went on strike for the climate, just a short time before the shootings. All of a sudden their voices and their message is delegated to the back pages. What will they make of all of this? We want and need to acknowledge the terrible loss of lives and the injured and the families left behind. And this needs to be done without the perpetrator taking the centre stage. Dave Dobbyn’s song is indeed ‘a song for our times’.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You make such a good point here, Ruth! Today on RNZ a psychologist was suggesting ways to help children in this situation, and they included, Carry on with your usual routines and stay active. You’ve given an excellent reason for this. Thank you.

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Jacinda says: I will never speak his name, and she sets the pace. About the student protest: I think and hope they will strike again and again. Or continuously. They are brilliant.

  3. anne leueen says:

    The juxtaposition of these two events is one of those extraordinary moments in life. Tragedy. Hope. Hatred. Love. Tomorrow perhaps a new pathway with more love and more hope.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It is a wake up call in numerous ways.

  4. Kim says:

    I, like almost everyone I know in the city, have been completely speechless since Friday. Poignant thoughts, thank you 🙁

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It’s good to make new connections like this. What can we do to rub out the racism in our society? Like on talkback radio for instance…

      1. Kim says:

        I have been saddened at the idiotic comments on social media too, especially when our PM and most of Chch are showing humility and finding peace in togetherness.

  5. lifecameos says:

    A great commemoration of the shootings. It was a surreal day indeed, and I too feel the secondary school students on Schools Strike 4 Climate Change were robbed of the prominence that should have been given to their message.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I hope they will do it again and again and again.

      1. lifecameos says:

        So do I.

  6. Rachel McAlpine says:

    Comments closed now. Thank you all for caring about this tragic event.

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