Women’s centre mosaic extended
The Heretaunga Women’s Centre could be described as a pillar of society — literally.
As part of last year’s annual September celebrations, the centre decided to mosaic their entrance pillars and this year extended the work.
“Jokingly, when the work was completed Jean McGavock, the main artist, joined me to talk about how they could extend it the following year to include more women and somehow incorporate it all with 125 years of suffrage,” says centre manager Margot Wilson.
Jean came up with a plan which spanned 5m either side of the gate. She provided a template for figures of women, plus images of fashions from 1893 to today, and facilitated daily workshops at the centre. Women from Kate Sheppard to Jacinda Ardern carrying daughter Neve are depicted.
“This meant that more than 50 women came and either produced a figure, flowers or borders on special mesh that would then be transferred onto the wall. Once all the figures were completed they were glued to the wall.”
Margot applied to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for funding for the project, which paid for tiles for the sky and ground and the suffrage ribbon that weaves throughout. However much of the clothing on the figures is made up from pieces of crockery women brought in to be part of the wall.
Margot says there were many highlights during the process, but watching women who had never done any mosaic or art work before stood out.
“It was really great to see them produce these fantastic figures and be so proud and happy to be part of what will be a lasting work.” Another highlight was the community conversations and stories the work generated as it went up on the wall, Margot says.
“A large number of people stopped to talk with Jean and her helpers as they glued and grouted the work in place. It truly was a community art work.”
The whole process took just three weeks. The biggest challenge was getting the work completed in time for the unveiling on Suffrage Day, September 19, although the final grouting had to happen a week later.
“It was such a relief to get it all completed on that afternoon before unveiling. Jean didn’t think we had enough tiles to complete the sky but remarkably we managed to finish with some to spare. She is still scratching her head over how we did this.”
Feedback from the community has been very positive.
“I really feel it adds another dimension to Civic Square and draws attention to our beautiful Category One historic building and the Women’s Centre itself. In some ways it almost feels like we need to have an entrance into the centre from the square as well now — but that might be a conversation for another day. I am just thrilled that the women of Hastings have managed to produce such a stunning commemorative piece in honour of those women who worked tirelessly 125 years ago to secure the vote for women.”
Heretaunga Women’s Centre manager Margot Wilson standing by the centre’s entrance wall showing a suffrage mosaic depicting Kate Sheppard, and Jacinda Ardern and her daughter Neve.