Handle With Care Series

March 2020—ongoing
Kiwi Hero Nurses by Michel Tuffery

Kiwi Hero Nurses by Michel Tuffery

This is an ongoing series of works created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were conceived from the beginning March 2020.

Michel is an avid stamp collector so he has a large collection from many countries. Developed as a concept to encourage everyone to stay safe, keep steady and act responsibly to protect our communities, and stamp out COVID-19.

Kiwi Hero Nurses (above)
Celebrating Nurse Jenny from Invercargill who nursed the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the COVID-19 pandemic, and earlier heroes from the Tuberculosis epidemic. NZ 1929 Health Stamp Miss Nell Burt  To read more here about the stamps click here

– Team Tuffs


The ‘Handle With Care’ project began in March 2020 in consultation with Pacific Health Plus (PHP), Porirua, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michel Tuffery had only recently returned from China when COVID-19 came to international attention. He recalled being in Samoa during the 2019 measles and the tragic loss of so many young lives there.

As COVID-19 ravaged Italy’s elders, Tuffery considered who would be most vulnerable if and when the virus arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The ‘Handle with Care’ campaign was designed to convey simple messaging directly to communities and essential workers disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

The series adapts vintage postage stamps from Aotearoa and other Pacific Islands and adopts the familiar caution written on posted packages: ‘FRAGILE Handle With Care’.

The images were initially displayed in public spaces as posters printed by PHP on their in-house printer—the only printing available during Level 4 restrictions.

Health Stamps, combining postage with a donation to charity in their purchase price, have a long history in Aotearoa. First appearing in December 1929, featuring a nurse and the inscription ‘Help stamp out tuberculosis’, they were issued annually until 2016 in support of charitable causes, and many have become collectible.

While encouraging community members to “stamp out” coronavirus by staying home, washing hands, and wearing masks, Tuffery’s ‘Handle with Care’ series also emphasises ties to ancestry and culture as part of a holistic approach to healthcare.

Mask- and glove-wearing ancestors urge their descendants to ‘protect all of our communities’, while the nostalgia of historical images conveys the need for particular care of elders and their wisdom.

Michel Tuffery & Dr Billie Lythberg

Western Samoa 1935 Stamp Issue

Handle With Care Series 2020

New Zealand 1940 Centennial Issue
To read more about these stamps click here

Western Samoa 1940 Stamp Issue

New Zealand 1940 Centennial Issue
To read more about these stamps click here

Handle With Care Series 2020
Handle With Care Series 2020

Western Samoa 1935 Stamp Issue

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