Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Shops that pass in the night 2

Aotearoa Streetwear in Cuba StBack in September I wrote a post (Shops that pass in the night) about quirky and transient shops that come and go in the Cuba Quarter. One of them, which recently hosted a Thai furniture shop (and was more notorious as the fake bakery from Insiders Guide to Love), has undergone yet another change and reopened as Aotearoa Streetwear. It's a retailer specialising in casual clothing with Māori themes, some of which is also available online at Aotearoa House, and the first hints of its arrival came late last year when some of their clothes started to appear among the bamboo lamps and brass telephones.

Sign in a Cuba St Window - Never believe anything until it's officially deniedThe door next to the shop, which presumably leads to an upstairs flat, has had some interesting posters and messages recently. There was the crypto-eugenicist poster last year, and now this classic piece of conspiracy theorist paranoia. I especially like the fact that it's on one of those stars that are normally used for signs saying "Amazing Sale!!! Up to 3% off!". It's gone now, and now that the whole unit is being tidied up, maybe we've seen the last of these amusing (if slightly disturbing) messages. Watch this space.

Mojo Sound - Cuba StStephen's just beaten me to it, but another shop space just up the street has also been retenanted (yes, that's a word). It's called Mojo Sound, and as its eye-watering web site says, it specialises in selling parallel-imported musical instruments and related equipment. Mostly classic guitars, amps and pedals, so there's little for knob-twiddling laptop thrashers like myself, but they definitely count as eye candy and the craftmanship does seem like something under the ordinary. Stephen, your bank manager should breathe a sigh or relief: some of the guitars even cost less than five grand!

The Cake Shop, and anarchist internet cafe in Cuba StFor a while last year, this was home to The Cake Shop. This was not, as you might understandably think, a place that actually sold cakes (though you should be getting used to ersatz purveyors of baked goods around here). Neither was it, as their website somewhat mischievously claimed, "a global think tank and centre of innovation and initiative" bringing together "scientists, businessmen, international civil servants, economists, [and] heads of state". Instead it was a collectively-run Internet café and bookshop with an anarchist bent, incorporating the Freedom Shop which had been evicted from its upper Cuba St premises to make way for the 'bypass'. It was quite an impressive one-stop-shop for anarchists, anti-capitalists, vegans, punks, pacifists and the like, providing a meeting space, band venue, exhibition space and screening room at the back (compounding the nomenclatural confusion, this was called The Pioneer Lounge) along with internet access and books.

Oblong Internet Cafe in Cuba StWhen its lease expired, the remnants of the Freedom Shop moved further down Cuba St and around the corner into the Left Bank where it was incorporated into Oblong, another community Internet café with similarly anti-capitalist politics. Oblong also runs computer camps that cover standard stuff such as email, web design and digital photography, but with an emphasis on open source software, and also teaches much more Cuba-esque skills such as leaflet design, Indymedia and stencil-making. So amid all the design stores and cocktail bars that are popping up in Cuba St, there are a few places left that still fly the flag for radicalism and nonconformity.


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