20th Anniversary of Handspan & International Day of Peace Celebration

On 21 September 2022, the Handspan Peace Sculpture at Whanganui, New Zealand celebrated its 20th anniversary. This special occasion coincided with the 40th anniversary of the UN International Day of Peace, which was celebrated by the global community worldwide. At the beginning of the year 2000, Peace through Unity embarked upon a culture of peace sculpture project in the city of Whanganui. With the help of the Sarjeant Gallery a culture of peace sculpture design competition was organised for all artists of the region, and the late Ross Mitchell-Anyon was the winner and the designer of Handspan.

The Whanganui District Council gave its approval and donated the site in Queen’s Park, Pukenamu. The sculpture was built through the combined skills and cooperation of people from many parts of the community: artists, construction workers, electricians, plumbers, plasterers, architects and engineers.

The Handspan Peace Sculpture was established as part of Whanganui’s Peace Day celebrations on 21 September 2002 in dedication to a culture of peace and non-violence for children across the globe. The walls of the double-spiral pathway converge at the centre and are covered by more than 4000 clay casts of hands from Whanganui and the nationwide community.

The walls of the double-spiral pathway converge at the centre and are covered by more than 4000 clay casts of hands from Whanganui and the nationwide community. In the build-up to the celebration event, Whanganui Potters Studio partnered with Peace Through Unity to organise two weekends of hand-casting workshops, which provided the opportunity for new members of the community living in Whanganui after Handspan was first established to experience having their hand cast into clay before firing the tile after which they will take home the final products.

At mid-day on 21 September, a minute silence was observed by a diverse group at the Handspan. Kaumātua John Maihi led off with a karakia, a Māori prayer, followed by the honourable guest, High Commissioner of Malaysia to New Zealand, HE, Ms Nur Izzah Wong Mee Choo, representatives from Quakers and the three historic peace churches, the multicultural council of RangitikeiWhanganui, members of the community and the Mayor of the Whanganui District Council all contributed prayers and thoughts to the event. John Maihi then rededicated the Handspan Peace Sculpture, joined by all who participated.

A celebratory luncheon was held right after the rededication ceremony at the nearby War Memorial Hall. Ms Nur Izzah Wong Mee Choo addressed the audience by promoting nuclear disarmament and the importance of building peace in the Pacific region. Keynote speaker, Thomas Nash, Councillor of Greater Wellington Regional Council, spoke on the topic “Sustaining the Global Community from Aotearoa” and shared how New Zealand could take on the leading role of setting an example in the areas of conflict resolution and sustainable development for the rest of the world. Youth representative, Charlotte Hardy shared her experience and hope of advocating for a more environmentally friendly society and a world that respects the lives of all beings.

The celebration of the 20th anniversary brought the community together to rejuvenate the essence and solidarity of the community spirit. The event was kindly sponsored by a grant from the Peace and Disarmament Education Trust, administered by the Department of Internal Affairs of New Zealand, and supported by the Whanganui District Council.