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Artist brings light to massive chandelier to commemorate 130 years of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa

Riria Dalton-Reedy

Auckland artist Wendy Hannah has brought light to an important kaupapa with her latest art piece “Liberty - Herekoretanga”, which is on display at the Botany Town Centre.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

The country’s largest chandelier measures 26 metres x 8 metres and is made from 31,872 camellia flowers made from recycled bottles, commemorating 130 years of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Hannah (Ngati Awa, Te Arawa) says this sculpture was five years in the making.

“It started out as a dream and it has now come to reality,” Hannah said of her artwork that was unveiled on Tuesday.

During that time, Hannah travelled to schools across the country teaching students to make the camellia replicas as a symbol of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa.

In the 1890s. petitions were delivered to Parliament demanding women be given the right to vote.

Each camellia flower on the sculpture represents the number of signatures on these petitions.

Hannah says the chandelier isn’t only symbolic of that movement, it is also raising awareness about environmental issues.

“[The chandelier has] two narratives that go alongside each other,” Hannah said.

“We were really passionate about the plastic and the sea.”

During her school visits, Hannah also spoke to students about the ecological impact of plastic and the importance of recycling and reducing waste.

“The Botany Town Centre said we want things that will bring people here that makes them feel part of the shopping centre,” said Hiraani Himona of Te Tuhi Arts, who helped propel this kaupapa (project) alongside Hannah.

Although artwork has been displayed in the mall before, nothing of this magnitude has been shown at the centre.

“This one is a real kind of community engagement I feel, which I think is important,” Himona said.

Hannah says the venue is fit for purpose.

“This particular project has been made for this beautiful space and because it’s an atrium and it’s got the windows,” she said.

“The film that we use on there that reflects, that works beautifully with natural light.”

Hannah pays homage to her late mother, who she says was the main inspiration for this piece.

“She helped me with the project”.

Mana wāhine (female power) has always been strong in Hannah’s whanau. She and her mother were both members of the Māori Women’s Welfare League.

“All of the women in our family are really strong. My mother, she’s strengthened us.”

Hannah says this is a significant piece for Aotearoa, as we were the first nation to have universal suffrage.

“It was about women’s suffrage and valuing our pioneering women.”

“Down the track, we’re hoping to travel around New Zealand regionally because a lot of the schools will be able to see their work,” Hannah said.

The chandelier was officially unveiled at the Botany Town Centre on Tuesday - the anniversary of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa.

Hundreds of people gathered to unveil this momentous art piece.

The event included a performance by Taisha Tairi and students of Wakaaranga Primary School.

Hannah and her mother composed a karakia (prayer) together, which was recited by her niece at the opening.

“[The karakia] here to protect us as a woman.”

“Liberty - Herekoretanga” will be on display for 12 months.

Hero Immage: Artist Wendy Hannah's piece of art took five years to complete. Photo/Sylvie Whinray

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