Dragon team puts bodies on line for funds
Whitby resident Ngawai Richardson’s torso tells a story of bravery, loss and peace.
Now the 63-year-old has had her story put permanently into art.
Richardson and eight other members of the CanSurvive Dragon Boat Team of Wellington have cast their torsos in plaster, along with Wellington mayor Celia WadeBrown and actor Miranda Harcourt.
All up, 16 BraveArt pieces will be auctioned next month to raise money for the team to compete at the International Breast Cancer Dragon Boat Festival in Florida in October.
For many people, even the thought of having their body put permanently into art is enough to set nerves on edge, but Richardson said she didn’t mind.
‘‘ I think by the time you go through all this and have children it doesn’t really matter,’’ she said.
‘‘It has been an interesting experience. A lot of fun and a lot of hard work.’’
While most of the women were assigned an artist, Richardson asked specifically for Janice Neighbour, whom she has been friends with for 25 years.
Despite having never worked with mosaics before, Neighbour was up for the challenge.
‘‘I felt really privileged that she’d asked because she’s such a lovely lady,’’ she said. ‘‘This was an absolute joy to do.’’ Neighbour designed the piece with her friend’s Maori heritage and love of the sea in mind.
Called Healing of the Sea, it features paua, fine netting and feathers.
There is one cheeky part to the artwork, a nipple piercing created from an old earring.
‘‘She was the only one that asked for that,’’ Neighbour said.
Richardson, a Mana real-estate agent, said she was very pleased with how it turned out.
‘‘I think it was just a little bit of rebellion factor in it.’’
Richardson was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 and then had a full mastectomy on her right side last year.
‘‘I don’t know if I’m used to it really.’’
Richardson’s mother also had breast cancer, but she was 40 when her breast was removed.
While she has become attached to her torso mould, Richardson is happy to be selling it on to a good home.
A selection of the torsos will be available for viewing at Pataka from August 4.
The 16 torsos will be sold to the highest bidders at a live auction event at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts Gallery on August 21.
Master plasterer Paul Stanton, of Carrara Ceilings in Johnsonville, created the casts.
He has also worked on his own piece for the auction, showing a man and a woman, with Maori carvings representing the woman’s illness and the man’s role as supporter and family caregiver.
The team is trying to raise $150,000 for the Florida trip.