Until about 10 years ago I was not interested in ANZAC Day. Like many of my generation I took the view that it was a glorification of war. Something changed my attitude.
For the last 5 years I’ve marched in the ANZAC dawn parade with my mum, wearing the medals of her two older brothers (see below) who died during WW11 in their early 20s. I guess I’ve grown up a bit. It’s amazing watching how each year more and more younger people turn up to the ANZAC parade. I take that as a sign that the newer generation feels some responsibility for the future.
I do believe wars are avoidable. But I don’t hold responsible for war those who go and fight. And I believe symbols are so important.
The red poppy has become the recognisable symbol of ANZAC Day. The red, or Flanders poppy has been linked with battlefield deaths since WW1. It was the first to grow and bloom in the mud and soil of Flanders.
Madam Guerin and Moina Michael were responsible for making the poppy the international symbol of rememberance. They saw the potential for using the proceeds to help veterans and their families.
I want to tell you a story about a Dunedin artist who is on a quest to use the symbol of the poppy to transform an object of terror into a thing of beauty and perhaps life.
Stephen Mulqueen is a jeweller and sculpter. His poppies are crafted from the debris of war. I came across his work through an advert in the Listener about 3 years ago. Since then we’ve had various conversations.
What he produces is quite confronting, but also beautiful. He transforms a brass cartridge shell into a piece of wearable art. He makes poppies. Brass poppies. And he wants them to be made by veterans across the world and seen as a symbol of peace.
In his words;
As we move towards the centenary of the Great War (1914/18 – 2014/18) Poppies of War offers a very real connection to the collective memory of the human carnage that scarred so much of the world during the 20th century. The brass cartridge poppy lies at the heart of current social debate, and offers a space for reflection on the causes and consequences of war as people all over the globe continue to experience it daily.
…. a hybrid of the fragile poppy flower with a discarded metal fragment, a residue of war where ‘beauty meets terror’. The brass cartridge poppy resides in the tradition of mourning jewellery and spirit of the biblical text ‘turning swords into ploughshares’. It carries its own poetic resonance and is a signifier both for death and new life.
Whatever you think of Stephen Mulqueen’s work, his quest is admirable and worth supporting.
Lest we forget:
Private Gerald Howard, killed in action in Tunisia, North Africa, 25 April 1943 aged 22
Pilot Officer Alastair Howard shot down over Flanders, Germany 23 February 1945 aged 23