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New Solidarity Grid Lamp to Remind of Fight for Poland’s Political Freedom

A Central European street lamp from the Pomeranian city of Sopot, Poland will be installed in early December on Park Terrace to be unveiled by The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to New Zealand, Zbigniew Gniatkowski and Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel on 8 December at 9.00am on site at Park Terrace.

The link between Pomerania and Canterbury regions goes back to the times of the early settlers and left a significant footprint in the current landscape of our city.

Mischa Kuball, Solidarity Grid, 2013 street lamps in situ along Park Terrace, Christchurch. Image is courtesy of SCAPE.

The lamp from Sopot continues Mischa Kuball’s legacy art project Solidarity Grid commissioned by the Christchurch City Council’s Public Art Advisory Group and produced by SCAPE Public Art.

For Polish nationals, including those living in New Zealand, the word ‘Solidarity’ (in Polish ‘Solidarność’) will be forever synonymous with the Trade Union movement of the same name that many would say changed the world in the 1980’s through its crucial contribution to the collapse of communism in Europe. A social movement, the first non-communist party-controlled trade union in a Warsaw Pact country, Solidarity, led by Lech Wałęsa (winner of The Nobel Peace Prize in 1983) fought for political changes leading to the Round Table talks and the free elections on 4 June 1989.

This gift from Poland, an overhanging street lamp with delicate cast iron lace detail is a gesture of friendship and support for Christchurch, especially during our city’s recovery and rebuild process. Similar style lamps can be found along Sopot’s Pier – the longest wooden pier in Europe stretching over 500m into the Baltic Sea.

SCAPE Public Art, Mischa Kuball, the Polish Honorary Consul in Christchurch, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Wellington and the Polish Association in New Zealand worked together to secure the street lamp for the people of Christchurch and are excitedly awaiting its completion.

The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to New Zealand, Zbigniew Gniatkowski said, “It is with great satisfaction that we unveil the Polish lamp given by Sopot, a beautiful city located in the region where the Polish Solidarność was born in 1980. This year we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the movement which started the domino effect in Europe and contributed to the fall of communism. After the peaceful transformation Poland could re-join the European family to enjoy the most prosperous time she ever had. This symbolic gift will remind us of the values that Poles and New Zealanders share such as Freedom, for which our nations jointly fought for many times, and Solidarity which our New Zealand friends had shown to my compatriots by inviting them and offering shelter in difficult times of WWII and in the 1980’s.”

Director of SCAPE Public Art, Deborah McCormick said, “The recent violence in Paris has been a reminder of the importance of solidarity and friendship between nations and befitting from the Polish who have been such wonderful advocates of peaceful change and protest.  Mischa’s work is all about connecting people through the selfless giving of a lamp; about breaking geographical and cultural barriers and paving the way for increased understanding and tolerance for different ways of life".

Solidarity Grid has gained momentum worldwide as a global infrastructure cultural exchange project since the first lamp in the series of 21 was installed during the SCAPE 7 Public Art Christchurch Biennial in 2013.

The project is nearing completion, with 19 of the 21 street lamps gifted from cities around the world already installed. These include lamps from our sister cities of Adelaide, Australia; Kurashiki, Japan; Wuhan, China; Songpa, Korea; Christchurch, Dorset, United Kingdom; Gansu, China as well as Düsseldorf, Germany; Sydney, Australia; Belgrade, Serbia; Sendai, Japan; Montreal, Canada; Mexico City, Mexico; Graz, Austria; La Rochelle, France; Ieper, Belgium; Singapore; Boston, USA; and Seattle, USA with Sopot’s light to become the nineteenth streetlamp in place.

The lamps provide three-pronged benefits for Christchurch; they light the previously off-the-grid section of Park Terrace, a popular trail for cyclists and pedestrians; they provide a decorative statement, with each lamp conveying a different look reflective of its donor city; and, most importantly, they build connections between Christchurch and international cities, often breaking the ice for long-term civic and community relationships.

The Polish city of Sopot is a fashionable resort town popular with tourists and celebrities for its fresh sea air and health spas. Centred between Gdansk and Gdynia (known as the Tri-Cities) on the Baltic Coast, its temperate climate, Art Nouveau architecture and manicured gardens make for a pleasant, calming atmosphere.

 


Published on 1st December 2015