1 January 2023 Susannah

Book Addict Admires a Literary Statue – Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield statue, Wellington, NZ

In 2021 I ran a series on book collectors, last year my series was on favourite libraries around the world. In 2023 I plan to take you around the world to admire statues of great writers, some quirky, some truly wonderful, others distinctly odd. You may have seen some of them yourself but, if not, I hope my series throughout the year will give you ideas for statues to check out on future travels.

I’ll start with an unusual, interesting and, in my view, extremely successful statue of New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield, which stands in Midland Park on Lambton Quay in the city of Wellington. It is called ‘Woman of Words’.

Many designs for the sculpture were submitted and there was a rigorous selection process, before this design by Virginia King was chosen. The project was financed by the Wellington Sculpture Trust, the Katherine Mansfield Society and Wellington City Council.

It is 3m high and depicts the writer striding along the Quay. She’s like a powerful warrior figure, wrapped in a metal garment. Made from stainless steel, the entire surface of the sculpture is laser cut with words and phrases from her writings. During the day it reflects movement and colour from the surrounding area. Amber lights have been placed below the base of the figure so at night it is like a lantern of radiant silhouetted words.

Virginia King was inspired by Mansfield’s own wish to be seen “first as a writer and then as a woman”. Her hands appear as the elegant hands of a musician (the sculptor worked from a photograph of the hands of a musician), reflecting Katherine’s early training as a cellist.

The head is slightly turned to look back, a reference to Katherine Mansfield’s intense remembering of past events. The words on the head are taken from Mansfield’s own shopping and ‘to do’ lists.

The unveiling of the sculpture took place in 2013. She became only the second woman honoured by a statue in Wellington – the other is Queen Victoria.

Have you seen this statue? Tell me by leaving a comment here.

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Katherine Mansfield statue, Wellington, NZ, by Virginia King, photo by Susannah Fullerton & from https://www.sculpture.org.nz/the-sculptures/woman-of-words
Body image- Katherine Mansfield statue, photo by Susannah Fullerton

Comments (4)

  1. Heather Grant

    Definitely would have found us far too normal…..love that comment. A Happy New Year to you and all the family as well.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Evidently there is an excellent new book out about KM by Claire Harman whose books I love. Can’t wait to read it.

  2. Heather Grant

    I love the Katherine Mansfield short stories and have the full set. Our English teacher at Avonside Girls’ High introduced me to Katherine and I was totally hooked. The statue in Wellington is very elegant. I didn’t know there was a Katherine Mansfield Society. The website makes very intriguing reading. Thank you Susannah for that information and I have your audio cd Finding Katherine Mansfield. Not quite sure whether I would have liked her a great deal had I ever met her.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I think we might have found Katherine Mansfield a very intimidating person, and she might have disapproved of us for being too normal. But she was an utterly brilliant writer of short stories and I do so love her work. I’m pleased you were introduced to her writings at school – she is not as well known in Australia as she should be.
      Happy New Year!

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