Light shed on city's Polish heritage
Balloons in Poland's national red and white were released into the sky above Park Tce this week as the South Island's Polish community, some in national dress, celebrated the unveiling of a heritage street lamp at a civic ceremony on site.
The lamp was unveiled on December 8 by the Ambassador of Poland Zbigniew Gniatkowski with Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel.
The lamp from Sopot, in Pomerania, a province on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, continues Mischa Kuball's legacy art project, Solidarity Grid, commissioned by the city council's public art advisory group and produced by SCAPE public art.
A gift from Poland, the overhanging street lamp with delicate cast iron lace detail is a gesture of friendship and support for Christchurch, especially during the city's post-quake recovery and rebuild.
Lamps of a similar style adorn Sopot's Pier – the longest wooden pier in Europe – stretching more than 500m into the Baltic Sea.
The link between Pomerania and Canterbury dates back to the times of the early settlers, and left a significant footprint in the current landscape of Christchurch.
It was in Pomerania, in 1980, that the Polish Solidarity movement was born.
In a reference to the times, the Ambassador reminded the gathering that this year Poland celebrated the 35th annversary of the movement which started the domino effect in Europe and hastened the fall of communism.
"After the peaceful transformation, Poland could re-join the European family to enjoy the most prosperous time she ever had," he said.
The symbolic gift would serve as a reminder of the values that Poles and New Zealanders shared such as freedom, "for which our nations jointly fought many times - and Solidarity which our New Zealand friends had shown to my compatriots by inviting them in and offering shelter in the difficult times of the Second World War, and in the 1980s."
The city's 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 almost completed with 19 of the 21 street lamps from cities around the world, already installed.