Acclaimed New Zealand artist Gretchen Albrecht's International Women's Year 1975 is one of 12 works in a special university-based art exhibition marking 125 years of women's suffrage.

The Say so, Voices of protest and pause exhibition is curated by post-graduate art history students who selected one artwork each from the University of Auckland's extensive art collection.

The artworks had to fit a 125 Suffrage theme and encourage thinking about how far we have — or haven't — come as a society since 1893.

The students say as a "celebration of visual voices", an art exhibition can encourage fresh takes on age-old issues.

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"Art speaks directly to an emotional position," says student Alice Karetai, who chose Fiona Pardington's Inseparable Huia for the way it links the past to the present and highlights aspects of traditional Māori story-telling using male and female birds.

"Art offers such strong potential for new understanding."

Fellow student Sarah Melser says putting historic and contemporary work in an exhibition with a specific suffrage theme moves commemorations beyond nostalgia.

"It asks questions about where we are now rather than simply celebrating what was done back then."

Kirsten Raynor, who chose Gretchen Albrecht's poster, says for her 2018 is the year of women because of the #metoo movement.

"It has brought things to light and made us aware we haven't got as far as we hoped," says Raynor.

"New Zealand led the world in giving women the right to vote but ongoing inequalities of power and gender continue to this day. The #metoo movement, our degrading climate and relative political apathy are alarming signs that what began in 1893 is an ongoing struggle that implicates all of us."

The students talked about including only female artists but decided Say so should be inclusive. Finn McCahon-Jones says social change requires diverse voices in discussions rather than sticking to old binaries.

He choose a photograph by Jennifer French, Persimmons which shows the fruit on Clarice Cliff pottery and, at first, may look like a simple domestic still-life.

"But when you consciously drill down into it, there's a narrative about women's work and domestic life and each object has its own story."

Other works include Jane Zusters 1987 Untitled Triptych and Jude Rae's 1994 Virago.

Student Irina Teyt says she picked Virago because on the surface, it looks like washing being rung out but it represents for her how "women are just about to break through the frame of prescribed gender roles. One more ring of the washing ... "

•Say so, Voices of protest and pause is on at Old Government House, University of Auckland until October 10.

Suffrage exhibitions:
Auckland War Memorial Museum: Are we there yet? Women and equality in Aotearoa: Photographs of trailblazers, ground-breaking marches, posters, publications and short-film feature in this contemporary exhibition which examines the successes and still-to-achieve moments in the fight for gender equality. Pay equity, reproductive rights, gendered violence and online trolling, legal rights and body images are discussed and interrogated. Until October 31

Te Ara I Whiti — The Lightpath: An interactive design by artist Peata Larkin to commemorate 125 years of women's suffrage will light up the Nelson Street Cycleway. During summer, four new semi-permanent outdoor artworks by emerging artists will be installed to explore themes behind the suffrage movement.

The Central City Library's Wāhine Take Action: The library is transformed into a place of civic action and debate with free workshops, exhibitions, discussion, art and craftivism. Highlights include the Wāhine take action exhibition itself. Until November 11

Māngere Arts Centre — Ngā Tohu o Uenuku: Arts collective The Coven puts a queer Oceanic spin on the suffrage movement using uses photography, sculpture and performance. Meanwhile, a new including multimedia project Uwha by artist Tīpare explores wāhine suffrage. Until November 17

Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui 125: Celebrating Women from the Collection: Intimate portraits, personal ephemera and illustrations of traditional roles of women through to challenging and bold statements of identity. This exhibition provides another glimpse of the breadth of the Sarjeant Gallery's nationally significant collection. Until February 17, 2019

Te Papa: Te Tohe mō ngā Take Wāhine / Doing It for Themselves: Women Fight for Equality Te Papa curators have collected contemporary items - the tools that women have used to make their voices heard and markers of their success - into a pop-up exhibition. These include a breast pump from former Green MP and writer Holly Walker, the NopeSisters T-shirt which addresses sexual abuse, a suit worn by Dame Jenny Shipley on her first day in office as our first-ever female Prime Minister and Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban's puletasi (formal Sāmoan outfit) in which she gave her maiden speech as NZ's first Pacific Island female MP. Until February, 2019

• The Suffrage Petition, which was presented to Parliament in 1893, can be seen at He Tohu at the National Library in Wellington. An online version is available at nzhistory.govt.nz