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.