New Zealand Prime Minister

This is an article written by Carolyn Web, writing in the Australian newspaper "The Age". It's one of many similar stories published world-wide in the aftermath of the massacre in Christchurch. As I commented in a recent blog, our customers returning from their NZ vacation identify "the people" as a highlight of their visit and the people of New Zealand continue to embrace and welcome visitors.

Jacinda Ardern mural source of 'humanity' for Australians

Carolyn Webb, The Age 15:34, May 23 2019


Silos of harmony: The landmark mural in Tinning Street, Melbourne.JOE ARMAO/THE AGE Silos of harmony: The landmark mural in Tinning Street, Melbourne.

If the purpose of the Jacinda Ardern mural in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, was to spread peace and love, the concept is already working. The artist, Loretta Lizzio, says as she worked on the silos, high up on a boom lift, passersby would shout "we love it!" and "keep up the good work!".

On the ground, strangers hugged, or were moved to tears as the 18-metre high image of the New Zealand Prime Minister embracing a Muslim woman took shape.

"One mother said to her little girl of about three, 'what does that look like'? and the girl said, 'Mummy giving hug'. It was really cute," says Lizzio.

Lizzio worked for free to complete the work in nine days, finishing on Sunday. It's is based on this photo taken by Hagen Hopkins after the March 15 massacre of 51 Muslims in Christchurch.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque on March 17, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand.

HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque in Wellington

One of the project managers, Tamara Veltre, said the mural was the idea of residents, including herself, of The Commons building overlooking the silos who "wanted to make people feel better" after "this awful thing that happened [the massacre]".

They saw Hopkins' photo "and thought, wouldn't it be great if we could get that painted on the silo".

The silos' owner, and Moreland Council, approved the project within weeks.

Peace, love and understanding: Artist Loretta Lizzio in front of the Jacinda Ardern mural in Melbourne.JOE ARMAO/THE AGE
Artist Loretta Lizzio in front of the Jacinda Ardern mural in Melbourne.

Veltre is heartened to see the work elevating Ardern's humanity and generating kindness.

"I see people riding up the bike path stop and take a photo. People are saying things like 'I'm going to go home and hug my family. I've seen people hug Loretta. It's really beautiful to watch. That's the effect we were hoping it would have."

Crowd funding raised A$11,506 (NZ$17,731) for the project.

The Age art critic Robert Nelson praised the Ardern mural as "humanity hoisted above the humbug".

"I'd forgive Loretta Lizzio any drawing problems (like the underside of the Muslim woman's arm) because the symbolism of this inclusive hug outweighs the technical defects of the rendering," Dr Nelson said.

"The curvature of the silo redoubles the embrace of the two women: it's a poetic celebration of a wrap-around emotional moment that helps bring people together."

James Kilby, 69, whose rug warehouse faces the mural, said by embracing a Muslim, Ardern had made "such a statement for the world".

He said the image showed the difference in Australia's and New Zealand's leaders: Ardern had been "absolutely clear about, 'we're all people", whereas Australia's leaders had fomented hatred and difference.

Artist Loretta Lizzio used her paintbrush to share a message of "welcomeness, warmth and acceptance".SUPPLIED
Artist Loretta Lizzio used her paintbrush to share a message of "welcomeness, warmth and acceptance".

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • May 23, 2019