Poignant memorial to March 15

Rebecca Parnham and artist Simone Johnstone in front of the Unity sign.
Rebecca Parnham and artist Simone Johnstone in front of the Unity sign.
Rebecca Parnham spent three days handwashing flower wrappers left outside Al Noor Mosque and the Botanic Gardens after the March 15 terrorist attacks.

She said she couldn’t bear to see the plastic wrapping destined for landfill go to waste.

As she washed through the 12 banana boxes worth of plastic, an idea sprung to mind to use the materials to make an art feature.

“I just kept thinking, these don’t belong to me, these belong to the community and I felt I had an obligation to do something with them. I owed it to the people who were lost to do something with it,” she said.

This is when Mrs Parnham convinced artist and friend Simone Johnstone to bring the project to life.

Using the plastic wrapping, Johnstone created Unity, which will be a key piece in the Tributes of Aroha showcase at Christchurch Art Gallery starting on Friday. The exhibition, which ends on Sunday, will mark the six-month anniversary of March 15.

Unity is made up of 260 flowers which Johnstone spent more than 200 hours creating by hand.

The artwork was unveiled at the Uniting Canterbury Women event in July, which was organised by six Canterbury women in response to the terror attack. It was gifted to the Muslim community and is now part of the Canterbury Museum.

Sitting at 1.8m x 5.3m, Mrs Parnham said the sign had to be big to reflect the massive response shown from Christchurch.

She said the artwork was about maintaining the sense of unity that arose following the attacks.

“It represents the initial response but in the sense that it needs to continue if we want to remain united and support each other, it can’t just be about putting some flowers down and walking away.

“After it all happened the community came out and said we care about you, we are one, and I just felt we were all going to go back to our homes and live our lives and I just wanted to keep that sense of unity alive.”