Friday, March 1, 2024

Saying it with camellias

Romaiye Lowen, Wendy Hannah, Taisha Tari, and a family member with installed Liberty-Herekoretanga in background. Image courtesy Te Tuhi.
The new art installation, a stunning chandelier of translucent camellias made from 31,872 recycled bottles at the Botany Town Centre, is a contemplative space. It pays homage to New Zealand’s world-leading suffrage heroines.

Liberty-Herekoretanga by contemporary artist Wendy Hannah is an awe-inspiring installation that celebrates the achievements of women and embraces the beauty of diversity and the importance of environmental awareness. To commemorate 130 years of women’s suffrage, the towering structure composed of 31,872 camellia flowers made from recycled bottles has been on display in the Pavilion at the Botany Town Centre.

In 2018, East-Auckland artist Wendy Hannah started the Camellia Project NZ.

Over the last five years, the experienced artist has visited schools and community groups throughout the country, running workshops to make camellia flowers from recycled drink bottles and talking about the history of women’s rights in New Zealand alongside the importance of recycling and reducing waste.

In the 1890s, white camellias became a symbol of New Zealand women’s suffrage when suffragists gave the flowers to their parliamentary supporters to wear in the House to show their support for women’s rights.

At the same time, 13 petitions, with a total of 31,872 signatures demanding that women be given the right to vote, were delivered to Parliament.

On 19 September 1893, New Zealand became the world’s first self-governing country to lawfully value women’s right to vote in parliamentary elections.

Each flower that radiates soft reflective light in the art installation represents one of the signatures on the petitions presented to parliament in the 1890s. Each camellia made by communities throughout New Zealand reignites our history.

The flowers, varying in shape, colour, and size, represent women’s diverse experiences, backgrounds, and contributions throughout New Zealand’s history.

In the 1890s, white camellias became a symbol of New Zealand women’s suffrage when suffragists gave the flowers to their parliamentary supporters to wear in the House to show their support for women’s rights.

“The use of recycled bottles in Liberty-Herekoretanga emphasises the significance of sustainability and the need for responsible consumption,” says Wendy, the artist with a strong interest in using art to bring about change in communities.

“By repurposing discarded materials, the installation draws attention to the importance of recycling and reducing waste, while also highlighting the potential for beauty and creativity in recycled objects.”

Hiraani Himona, director Te Tuhi, says that Liberty-Herekoretanga serves as a poignant reminder of the accomplishments and ongoing struggles of women, while also advocating for sustainable practices and environmental consciousness.

“It stands as a powerful symbol of empowerment, diversity, and unity, inspiring viewers to embrace the past, celebrate the present, and work towards a brighter and more inclusive future,” she says.

The production of the Camellia Project came together with the support of local schools and community organisations and with funding from Arts Out East, Te Tuhi, and the Howick Local Board.

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