Commemorative WW1 sculpture to be unveiled in Wellington

By Melissa Wishart

Victory Medal is a sculpture of 36 pairs of feet - the number of soldiers in a small platoon. Photo/Paul Estcourt
Victory Medal is a sculpture of 36 pairs of feet - the number of soldiers in a small platoon. Photo/Paul Estcourt

A commemorative sculpture will be unveiled in Wellington on Thursday for the centenary of the New Zealanders' involvement in the Battle of the Somme.

Victory Medal, a sculpture of 36 pairs of feet on a rusted steel medal by artist Helen Pollock, has been touring museums throughout New Zealand for the past two years, but has now reached its final destination in this country.

The artwork will be at Remembrance Ridge in the Wellington Botanic Garden from September 9 to November 13, after which it will travel by the troopship Tahiti to Europe, crossing through Northern France and Belgium until it reaches the French town of Le Quesnoy.

The journey mimics that of the New Zealand soldiers who made the same trip a century ago.

Pollock was inspired to create the sculpture by her father, who served in WWI and died when she was young.

She said the artwork was an acknowledgement of heroes, "the men, women and children who were, and are, caught up in conflict and wars on our behalf, and who suffer from debilitating illness, injury, systemic deprivation or poverty".

"The consequences of these reach across generations. Victory Medal is about putting this matter on the table and provoking discussion and thought."

The sculpture has 36 pairs of feet as this is the number of soldiers in a small platoon. They are laid out in a cross formation. One of the pairs of feet is cast in polished bronze to symbolise the feet of a recognised hero.

"The sculpture demonstrates that suffering and death are indiscriminate of recognition. There are no hierarchies in suffering and death," Pollock said.

Wellington Botanic Garden manager David Sole said Remembrance Ridge would be the "perfect place" for the artwork.

There would be signs to direct visitors, and a map on the Botanic Garden website, he said.

Once the sculpture is taken to Le Quesnoy, it will be permanently installed to commemorate New Zealand's liberation of the town.

"It is fitting that Victory Medal will lie forever in France, like the approximately 7500 New Zealanders who died there during WWI," a Wellington City Council spokesman said.

- NZ Herald

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