Arboreal Eloquence: Trees and Commemoration
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis is about the use of trees for commemoration and the memory that they have anchored in the landscape. There has been little written on the use of trees for commemorative purposes despite its symbolic resonance over the last 150 years. To determine the extent to which commemorative trees have been employed, the social practice and context in which the trees were planted, field and archival work was undertaken in New Zealand and Australia. This has been supported with some comparative work using examples from Britain and the United States of America. The research also utilizes the new availabilities of records on-line and the community interests that placed historical and contemporary material on-line.
The commemorative tree has been a popular commemorative marker for royal events, the marking of place and as memorial for war dead. It has been as effective an anchor of memory in the landscape as any other form. The memory ascribed to these trees must be understood in terms of the era in which the tree was planted and not just from a distance. Over time the memory represented by the trees and its prescribed meanings, has changed. For all its power and fragility, memory is not permanent but nor is it so ephemeral as to exhibit no robustness at all. Instead memory exists in a state of instability that leaves it open to challenge and to constant reassessment based on the needs of the viewing generation. This instability also allows the memory, and thus the tree, to fade and become part of the domestic landscape of treescape memories (Cloke and Pawson, 2008). However, in some circumstances trees are retrieved and reinscribed with specific memory and made relevant for a new generation. The landscape created by commemorative trees is, therefore, multifunctional, in which social relations support memory, remembrance, forgetting, silences, erasures, and memory slippage.