COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.
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.