Two groups of Friends, forty in each group, were given exclusive guided tours of the Parliamentary art collection on Wednesday 25 November and Friday 27 November. The tours were followed by a delicious three course dinner prepared by Bellamys Logan Brown.

I think the most surprising point for most people was the extent and variety of the collection only a fraction of which is on display at any time. The collection includes some specially commissioned works and notable acquisitions by major New Zealand artists such as McCahon, Hotere, Wong, Hodgkins and Trustum. A large number of these came from the Foreign Affairs collection.  There were also many works donated by visiting delegations and items presented to the collection by retiring parliamentarians. The  works consequently are of varying quality and are changed regularly to interest visiting groups or to mark special occasions.

The tour gave access to parts of parliament that are not often open to visiting groups including the Speakers quarters and the select committee rooms such as the Maori Affairs Committee Room with its carvings and tukutuku panels and a room focused on the suffragette movement and women MPs.

Overshadowing the art works for some was the the very impressive way in which the  parliamentary buildings have been renovated and restored.  Most of us are more familiar with the exterior of the buildings but internally the lack of a coherent architectural design was less obvious. Photographs of previous Prime Ministers and various groupings of former MPs in select committee rooms such as those of Pacific ancestry reminded us of the past and more recent history of the House.

It was a privilege to visit parliament  and special thanks and a gift were given to our two tour guides.

Lindsay Taiaroa