Greenstone and grief
My father had a collection of Maori hei-tikis, meres and other pieces, bought over thirty-odd years. Before he died last year, I worked with him on putting together a small book about his collection.
It was the closest I had ever been to him, and it was about the only way in a family splintered by abuse and silence that I could safely show how I felt. I made a catalogue from his notes, arranged for a local photographer, then laid out the book and arranged for it to be published and shipped over to him. While I worked on this, he talked about each piece and tried to teach me how to bid at auctions – he knew he was dying – and what he hoped we would buy, which pieces to sell, what kind of a collection we should build.
He wanted the Kalimantan Collection to be something passed down to our grandchildren, shared with other collectors, possibly with museums (he had great stories about wrangles with museums) and it was – possibly next to golf, his other passion.
My mother and one of my sisters who have taken control of his estate are now selling the collection off.
There is a whole mess behind it, basically boiling down to greed and power. It’s horrible, utterly horrible.
But today I got the formal letter that the collection is being sold. I suppose I had hoped when I wept last month in front of my mother and begged her not to sell it, that they would change their minds.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to buy any of the pieces for myself. Most of them require a Y-certificate and can’t be brought out of New Zealand, where I don’t live. The rest of the pieces are probably way too expensive for me.
The funny part of it is that if I’d had my share of the inheritance like my dad intended, I could afford them. Or if they had been willing to buy me out of my share with the Collection like I asked –
We gave away most of the money my dad left to me in advance. It’s all complicated but there’s either half a million or a million left in my share, or maybe a hundred thousand given how spectacularly bad things are going. I don’t regret what we did with the money. But now I wish I’d saved some of it so I could buy the piece #2, the first greenstone he ever bought. I can’t remember what it’s valued at, but I’m pretty sure I can’t.
It’s just breaking my heart. It’s hearing that he died all over again.
The Kalimantan Collection – a 12MB PDF of the book. It’s a pretty good read about Maori artefacts if um. Well, I’m biased. And crying.