New Zealand Mosaic Art

 From Kate Sheppard to Jacinda Ardern and baby Neve ….  the women dance along the mosaic wall

Jean McGavock planned the mosaic wall for the 125 anniversary of the suffrage movement in New Zealand to span five metres either side of the Civic Square gateway to the Heretaunga Women’s Centre, Hastings; the ‘backdoor’ of the heritage listed building leading out into the park. Enthusiastically encouraged by the Women’s Centre manager, Margot Wilson Jean provided a template for figures of women plus images of fashion from 1893 to today to incorporate all 125 years of suffrage. More than 50 women came to Jean’s daily workshops at the Centre to produce a figure or flower or border, on mesh, which was then glued to the wall. This is a wonderful example of a community of women coming together to share the joy of being part of a community art project. Many of the women had never been involved in creating a mosaic before. Passers by often stopped to talk to Jean and her helpers, sharing observations and stories.

In July 2018 the local council agreed to clear the area and prepare the wall of the Centre and persuaded by the vision, the drawings and costings the Ministry of Women’s Affairs funded the initiative, paying for the tiles for the sky, the ground and the suffrage ribbon that weaves throughout. The clothing on the figures is made from pieces of crockery the women brought themselves.

Jean ran two hour sessions working with 3 women at a time. They created their figures, chose a fashion era and selected china with lots of creative freedom and imagination.

By the second week there were 32 figures created which were then sorted into a semi logical historical fashion order from 1893 through to 2018.

As women worked on figures, others popped in and out to create the flowers, a subtle feature allowing the suffragette ribbon of purple, white and green and the figures to catch the eye. During the more technical process of gluing and assembling the mosaic on the wall, the community took the opportunity to look or glue a piece while sharing opinion on colour, art, mosaic and politics! The whole process took just three weeks.

The mosaic captures an important story in our New Zealand history and will have impact on viewers for many years to come.

In August 2019 Jean was invited to a Hastings District Council awards night to represent the Heretaunga Women’s Centre. The Suffragette Mosaic Wall project won a Highly Commended award for public art. Hastings Landmark Trust supports projects which contribute to the unique identity of the region. Jean was really thrilled a mosaic received an award!

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