Kate, 2018


Weekend Herald - Canvas - - SUFFRAGE 125 - As told to Monique Bar­den.

I wanted to cre­ate a work that hon­oured the legacy of the amaz­ing women who paved the way for fem­i­nism and showed how to be com­mit­ted to equal­ity and eq­uity — a bat­tle we are still fight­ing. I chose the colours that were associated with suf­fragettes — pur­ple for loy­alty and dig­nity, white for pu­rity and green for hope. I couldn’t find the Kate Shep­pard camel­lia in bloom at the time, so I col­lected a huge va­ri­ety of white camel­lias from my neigh­bour­hood, my friends, my mother’s gar­den and the odd grass verge. Quite a bit of for­ag­ing.

I in­cluded the koru fern and koru, which sig­ni­fies new growth, new be­gin­nings and to sym­bol­ise that New Zealand was the first coun­try in the world to give women the vote. The but­ter­fly, chrysalis and cater­pil­lar sym­bol­ise the whole life cy­cle. I like my work to re­veal more de­tails as you spend time look­ing at it.

Camel­lias bloom in the mid­dle of win­ter, an adorn­ment among the grey­ness. It’s quite a tough plant, yet the flow­ers bruise eas­ily and last only a day be­fore drop­ping off. The flower drops while still whole. I love the metaphor of beau­ti­ful strength com­bined with frailty. I in­cluded the lace in the im­age be­cause it was such a big part of women’s lives when Kate Shep­pard was fight­ing for the vote. The lace has com­plex pat­terns that al­lude to the com­plex­ity of our lives as well as be­ing syn­ony­mous with pu­rity, in­no­cence and new be­gin­nings. It’s at the base of the im­age, un­der the vase, be­cause in the past it was some­thing that kept women in their do­mes­tic place. I found the Crown Lynn vase in a sec­ond-hand shop in Nel­son. I’d seen it in a book three days be­fore and had been think­ing, “How can I get one of those?” And there it was. Flow­ers are a uni­ver­sal sym­bol of hope, joy, love and peace — all our im­por­tant events in life are marked by flow­ers. I’m try­ing to put as much of that into the world as pos­si­ble, be­cause I see the world as a com­plex, dif­fi­cult place. If you fo­cus on things that can bring you joy that is a lit­tle bit of a help.

Emma Bass is an Auck­land-based pho­to­graphic artist with a dis­tinc­tive take on flora. Born in Liberia, West Africa, in 1967, she lived in Eng­land be­fore ar­riv­ing in New Zealand, aged 6.

Kate is one of 12 lim­ited edi­tion prints avail­able for sale. The pro­ceeds of the sale will go to char­i­ties for women. To in­quire or pur­chase a print, go to emmabass.co.nz Emma Bass is ex­hibit­ing at the Par­nell Gallery un­til Septem­ber 25.

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