Community art workshop on suffrage
Rawene’s Clendon House will be the venue for a community art workshop commemorating 125 years of women’s suffrage on November 24 (9.30am-4pm).
The art workshop, led by Dunedin artist Janet de Wagt and funded by Creative New Zealand, with support from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, will have participants create a commemorative banner that will be joined with others made at other workshops at key heritage locations around the country over the next few months.
The banners will be amalgamated into one final artwork, which will be launched at Old Government Buildings in Wellington in April.
“The banners are a reference to the three Parliamentary petitions that were circulated around the country, and which ultimately resulted in women finally being granted the right to vote on September 19, 1893,” said Lindsay Charman, senior visitor host for Clendon House.
“The third petition was described by suffragist Kate Sheppard as a ‘monster,’ made up of sheets circulated throughout New Zealand and returned to Christchurch, where Sheppard pasted each end-onend and rolled it around a section of broom handle.”
The ‘Monster Petition,’ with 25,519 signatures, some from men, was presented to Parliament with great drama. Sir John Hall, Member of Parliament and suffrage supporter, took it into the House and unrolled it down the central aisle of the debating chamber until it hit the end wall with a thud.
“The banners will be an artistic representation of that extraordinary social movement that ultimately saw New Zealand becoming the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote,” Mr Charman said. Clendon House was a fitting venue for a workshop.
“Jane Clendon was the daughter of Dennis Cochrane and his wife Takotowi from the Hokianga, a woman of considerable strength.
“She also had significant blood lines and mana, although she found herself almost bankrupt with a large family to provide for after the death of her husband in 1872. Many people facing such pressure would have gone under, but Jane, who was only 34 years old with eight children under 17, rode to Auckland on horseback and managed to skilfully negotiate terms of repayment with her creditors.
“The story of how Jane managed to clear her debts, educate her children in both the Pa¯keha¯ and Ma¯ori worlds while keeping the family home, is inspiring. She was a young mother who took charge of her life in a crisis.”
Artistic ability will not be necessary for the workshop. Janet de Wagt says she is looking forward to working with people with a range of different ideas and skills. All art materials will be provided.
“Participants in the banner making will be able to use painting, printing, stamping, drawing and weaving — whatever they prefer — to create the banners,” Mr Charman said. “Participation is the important thing, and celebrating a movement that changed New Zealand and the world forever.”
Artist Janet de Wagt (right foreground) at the first community suffrage art workshop in Auckland.