One of the most enduring images following the tragic Christchurch terror attacks was of New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern embracing a Muslim woman. The image of Ardern by photographer Hagen Hopkins went viral shortly after it was published and was projected onto the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) in Dubai.
Three weeks ago, a crowdfunding campaign raised more than $11,000 to paint a giant mural of the image on a Brunswick silo. Now, after nine-days of work and 25 litres of paint, the towering 25-metre-tall tribute is complete.
Gold Coast-based artist Loretta Lizzio donated her time to create the mural. “When I was painting it people were just walking up to me and hugging me,” she says.
Tamara Veltre, co-founder of Melbourne architecture firm Breathe Architecture (the practice behind Sydney’s Paramount House and the proposed Bennetts Lane Hotel, is one of the people who organised the mural. The silo belongs to a local un-named Brunswick businessperson.
“When I first saw the photo … it just resonated all those beautiful emotions, love, peace, tolerance, empathy, compassion,” Veltre says. “This awful thing that had happened ... if anything good can come of it, it’s that we have to learn to get along with each other and be tolerant of each other.”
Lizzio is no stranger to a large canvas; she’s painted large murals in Vancouver and London, and opposite Brunswick cafe Steam Junkies cafe is her six-storey mural Selene, a collaboration with fellow muralist Cam Scale. Her work is centred on strong images of the female form, painted in contemplative and intimate states.
“I think this is probably a whole other part of my body of work,” she says. “I think from painting a strong, particular figure of a woman like Jacinda Ardern I want to go down a road where I’m painting imagery that means more to someone than just a feeling.”
This is the artist’s first silo, and Lizzio was nervous. Working on the curved surface proved a challenge. To avoid the image appearing warped Lizzio painstakingly mapped out each segment of the painting on a grid calculated to flatten the curve.
Though the project received overwhelming support, the road to completion wasn’t smooth. The mural had some opposition from a Change.org petition, which collected almost 15,000 signatures. This negativity, and the gravity and importance of the artwork, lay heavily on Lizzio’s mind.
“I don’t know why it’s offensive to people,” Veltre says. “They were just like, ‘It’s not relevant, she’s not Australian’. But how is humanity not relevant? How is this act of empathy not relevant?
“There was one guy on a bike riding past yelling out hateful things like, ‘This is bullshit!’” says Lizzio. “But other than that, I’ve never had a response like that while I’ve been painting outside, ever. People have been screaming out, ‘We love it, keep going!’”
Support and donors for the project didn’t only come from Brunswick. Veltre says an Afghani refugee living in Bayswater donated $1000 to the campaign.
“He wrote me this beautiful letter about why he had donated,” Veltre says. “He came to the country 30 years ago, started as a warehouse worker, then went on to become a forklift driver, then ended up buying the company. He just said, ‘This means so much to me’.”
You can see the mural on Tinning Street in Brunswick, or from Anstey Station on the Upfield Line.