A moment for connection

One year on, we reflect on a day that tore the very fabric of our society and challenged us to think about what it means to be a New Zealander.

In response to the tragic Christchurch mosque shootings on 15 March 2019, many Kiwis searched for ways to put their grief into action, to make sense of the violence and find ways to help prevent this from ever happening again.

Two such New Zealanders are artists Adibah Saad and Lipika Sen. 

"Like our nation, I was devastated by the violence that could compel one to attack another based on their cultural identity – simply because they were different. I could no longer sit and watch on the sidelines as so many people in our beautiful country view people as 'the other',” said Adibah. 

Together Adibah and Lipika created NZ Postcards to NZ – a socially engaged interactive art project born out of the desire to help dispel the fear, confusion and lack of knowledge that incites racism.

Image: Adibah Saad (left) and Lipika Sen (right) embrace one of their subjects in front of one of their striking portraits during an interactive exhibition at The Performance Arcade, Wellington, February 2020.

NZ Postcards to NZ takes Kiwis on a vibrant visual journey through travel postcards that portray and celebrate the multicultural richness of the country’s 200 ethnicities and 160 languages.

“When we are travelling we are in a much better space to accept other people. This is why we chose the device of a postcard, which is itself a connecting device,” said Lipika.

In February this year, NZ Postcards to NZ was part of The Performance Arcade –­ a festival all about engaging the community through art and performance.

Set in a converted shipping container on the Wellington waterfront, viewers were invited to be photographed into a postcard, which could be printed and sent from the venue to another New Zealander.

If they didn’t want to be photographed, they could select and post one of the postcards depicting other New Zealanders or common greetings created by the artists. 

"The exhibition felt like a neutral meeting place where people could come and be with one another. The postcards allowed people to look at one another freely, to really look and take in the differences and connect," said Adibah.

It is increasingly unusual today for people to send or receive postcards. For many, the experience of holding a postcard in their hands was an emotional one. 

"The moment of connection began when the person picked up the postcard, when they start thinking about who they were going to send it to. We had so many tears and they were all tears of connection," commented Lipika. 

Over the course of the 5-day exhibition, thousands of postcards were printed and sent to loved ones around New Zealand. Many more postcards were taken home, a visual reminder of the felt experience of connectedness.

"What we are trying to showcase, whether you want it or not, we are all part of New Zealand, so we might as well get together and acknowledge and celebrate each other: this is the real New Zealand."

Asked about the next steps for this project Adibah replied, “In my heart, I feel that this belongs to our people, it has got a life of its own.” 

If you are interested in talking with the artists about this project, hosting an exhibition, getting information about future workshops, programmes in schools, postcard packs or any other enquiries, please email nzpostcardstonz@gmail.com or Instagram @nzpostcardstonz. 

From 13–16 March, Health Navigator is hosting a virtual exhibition of NZ Postcards to NZ – see our homepage to view a selection of images that have been created into postcards for the project.

Want to share your unique culture?

The images featured on NZ Postcards to NZ were created while hanging out in the homes, markets, parks and cafes that make up our inspiringly diverse communities.

There are so many more images to be shared and stories to be told. 

You are invited to join the journey by sharing your own photos expressing your own unique culture online at #nzpostcardstonz, IG: @nzpostcardstonz 

Future exhibition dates

Ko rātou, ko tatou | On otherness and us-ness
16 March–1 April 2020
Opening function: 3pm Sunday 15 March
North Art Gallery, Auckland

About the artists

Adibah Saad

Adibah’s life work includes being a mother to her two boys, social documentary and commercial photography, marketing and communications, and enhancing the wellbeing of individuals, groups and organisations by coaching them to be their authentic selves and living their innate purpose through her practice of intuitive self-healing.

The cultural diversity of her Māori, Malay, Chinese and European heritage has fed her love of exploring the world and deepened her own understanding and living among different cultures.

As a photographer, Adibah loves telling and sharing stories in our world, of our people, and loves the gift of communicating from a sensory perspective what is seen moment to moment.

Her photography can be viewed on Instagram @adibah_saad 

Lipika Sen

Alongside Prabhjyot Majithia, contemporary conceptual artist and writer, Lipika Sen has been creating large scale works of public art and interactive art experiences, installed permanently and showcased at major art shows around New Zealand.

Their multi-dimensional, socially engaged practice includes sculpture, acrylic on canvas, digital drawings, words, sound, music and film.

Poignant, whimsical, philosophical, intriguing or humorous, their works communicate at several levels, creating a zone of wonder, psychological relief, play, delight and stories, often engaging the viewer to become a part of the work, while addressing wider concerns of social, environmental and mental wellbeing.

Their works and exhibitions can be viewed on www.inhalingthespirit.com