John Newton

The Double Rainbow:James K Baxter, Ngati Hau and the Jerusalem Commune

ISBN: 9780864736031


‘When Maori and Pakeha do these things together the double rainbow begins to shine.’

In 1969, New Zealand’s best-known poet, James K. Baxter, moved to Jerusalem on the Whanganui River and established an intentional community under the mana of the local hapu, Ngati Hau. The Jerusalem commune proved a magnet for disaffected and damaged young people. As the setting for Baxter’s celebrated late works, Jerusalem Sonnets, Jerusalem Daybook and Autumn Testament, it quickly became the country’s most famous hippie community, as well as a media byword for the idealism and excess of the emerging youth culture.

But what was life really like at Jerusalem, beyond the popular stereotypes? And what did it mean, for Ngati Hau, to be deluged with long-haired strangers and with the media attention which followed them?

Here, for the first time, events are reconstructed from the point of view of James K. Baxter’s followers and of the local people who accepted them. The story told in this book is unique: nowhere else has a Pakeha community submitted so comprehensively to the authority and generosity of a Maori one. The events described are exceptional in our nation’s colonial history. But they also convey an image of what a bicultural Aotearoa might yet become.

The true story of the Jerusalem commune is Baxter’s undiscovered masterpiece. Now this scrupulous and evocative book allows us to read and to begin to interpret it.

Praise for The Double Rainbow

Baxter's experiment in bicultural communalism has continuing lessons for us all. It is an important book.
Peter Simpson NZ HERALD

John Newton's book about Baxter's final years succeeds so brilliantly because it concentrates less on the barefoot guru of media legend and more on the rise and fall of his commune at Jerusalem. Newton does not treat Jerusalem as a cultural dead end, but as an early prototype - 10 years before the Maori resurgence reached the mainstream - of the bicultural struggles that New Zealand society is still engaged in.
Gordon Campbell METRO

...a fine book which adds a great deal to our understanding of a remarkable experiment, and deserves to be widely read.

Double Rainbow is a scholarly, readable and fascinating account of events at the tipping point in our cultural history.

The Double Rainbow is the fruit of an incredibly-impressive amount of extensive and laborious research. Newton commendably resists romanticising Baxter, Baxter’s vision, or the Ng?ti Hau ‘classroom’ itself. Those engaged in Baxter’s work and who want to better understand his Jerusalem Daybook or are interested in his biography, those seeking to understand, assess and inform Aotearoa’s multi-cultural, historical and spiritual landscape, those wanting to listen and to speak intelligently into contemporary debates about the relationship between government authorities and badge-wearing gangs carving out their own neo-tribal identity, and, more broadly, to a nation fascinated with re-carving a new national identity which buries settler mono-culturalism in its wake, and those devoted to the challenging work of inspiring, creating, leading, building, replanting and closing local and grassroots communities will be well-served to have Newton’s essay in hand. An invaluable and timely record, it is also certain to inform, impress and inspire.
Jason Goroncy Lecturer, Dean of Studies, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership


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