Swords into ploughshares, cartridges into poppies

Sculptor Stephen Mulqueen with a belt of Nato bullets and some of his poppy sculptures. Photo by Peter McIntosh.A Dunedin sculptor hopes to promote peace with a war piece.

Stephen Mulqueen leaves Dunedin today on a three-month tour of the United States, Canada and France to research the origins of the poppy.

''Everyone thinks the poppy is an Anzac thing now and I wanted to go deeper into the narrative around the poppy.

''It's a seminal symbol of the 20th century,'' he said.

Mulqueen began crafting brass poppies, ''Poppies of War and Peace'', in 2002 and has received $15,000 funding from a Fulbright Award and Creative New Zealand to research the symbol.

The poppies are made from .303 cartridges used in World War 1 and World War 2 and 5.56 and 7.62 Nato rounds from the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Many of the shells were collected from battlefields, including Flanders Fields.

''They are commemorative poppies crafted from the debris of war. I transform a brass cartridge shell into a personalised, wearable object,'' Mulqueen said.

''The poppies have grown out of my travels, curiosity, workshop practice and several years of refining. How we remember and commemorate are important to me.

''As we move towards the centenary of the Great War, ''Poppies of War and Peace'' offers a very real connection to the collective memory of the human carnage that scarred so much of the world during the 20th century.''

While in the United States, he will hold seminars on the history of the poppy.

''I'd like to get a group of veterans making my poppies. The project would be owned and organised by the veterans. That would make a real contribution,'' he said.

Mulqueen's poppies are referenced in a recently published history of the poppy, The Poppy, by English historian Nicholas Saunders.

nigel.benson@odt.co.nz

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