Guarding Naturally Over Mother Earth

Artist and gnomologist Henry Sunderland’s main mission in life is to make people smile. While he now devotes most of his time and energy to teaching at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology School of Art and Design in New Zealand, he has had a ‘gnome in his bonnet’ since 1975. He has gathered a wealth of information on gnomes, he has a collection in his garden at home and lectures and gives after dinner talks on the subject.

In 1977, Henry took a gnome named Charlie to the Antarctic and had him placed at the geographic South Pole. The purpose of the trip and taking Charlie was to highlight environmental issues. Charlie was the first gnome to have reached the South Pole, recent reports from Antarctica suggest that at least five more garden gnomes have followed in Charlie’s footsteps and are now residing at the South Pole Station, with twenty-five to thirty other gnomes on record as living at other bases on the white continent.

Hot lips

Henry Sunderland with two C. 1900 Maresch gnomes

Fred the Gnome on Duty

This photo was taken at 2am on 4 February 1977. Tragically, Charlie’s paint was burnt off in a fire in an accommodation hut.

To further his environmental campaign, Henry decided to take another gnome, this one named Jerome, to the North Pole. However, he found that the transportation for the journey was largely dependent on the US Air Force, who apparently were a little concerned about being associated with a gnome named Jerome. Despite the fact that he had even received support from his own Prime Minister, Henry could only conclude that the US Forces could not see the humour in placing a gnome on the North Pole.

However, gnomes would not leave Henry alone. In 1995 he was the main organizer of the world’s first international Gnome Convention. Held in Christchurch, the event was huge success, with more than ten thousand visitors during the weekend. Almost 300 gnomes and their guardians attended, and one of the main guests was Lampy, the surviving Lamport Hall gnome, who flew over especially for the convention. As part of the event, the city of Christchurch was presented with its own gnome, unveiled by the mayor, Vicky Buck, who named him Henry. He now looks over and cares for Christchurch’s botanic gardens.

Henry Sunderland believes that the garden gnome is increasingly being accepted as a friendly reminder for all of us to take better care of Mother Earth and for this reason he coined the phrase ‘Guarding Naturally Over Mother Earth (GNOME). He and his gnomes continue to campaign on environmental issues.

This is an extract from our book entitled “gnomeland and introduction to the little people” which is available from our shop here.

What's left of the Modbury Gnome