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Local Focus: Campaign of kindness a banner event

Normally people use tarpaulins to keep things dry, but someone in Masterton is using them for another purpose – to create brightly painted banners that become public art.

As you drive or walk around the Wairarapa town, the banners just appear out of nowhere – perhaps at a roundabout or on a fence – each of them emblazoned with uplifting phrases like “I’ve got this” or “Don’t worry, be happy”.

They’re the work of artist Elaine Hurndell, who lives in a local homestead she’s dubbed ‘The Wop Wops’.

Elaine has been on a mission for the past two years – sewing and cutting out letters, then gluing them to tarps to make what she calls her “goodwill banners”.

The genesis of Elaine’s ongoing artistic undertaking was an encounter at a retailer in town, where one staff member mentioned to her that many customers are rude to those serving them. In response, Elaine was inspired to make a banner with the suggestion “Try a little kindness” and offer it to the business to display.

“But they wouldn’t put it up, which was a shame. So I’m actually going to go to a business across the road to see if I can hang it on their fence because I will not take ‘no’ for an answer!”

Elaine’s latest goodwill banner campaign is called the “Wall of Courage”, which aims to raise awareness of, and ultimately put a stop to, bullying.

But before checking in on how her new project is progressing, the Times-Age takes a tour of the town to check out the 13 banners Elaine already has on display.

Among the examples we find driving around are “Don’t let anyone ever dull your sparkle” at Solway Primary School, “You are more worthy than you have been told” on the fence at Masterton’s Courthouse, and the already mentioned “Try a little kindness”.

“They’re there to lift people’s spirits up,” Elaine says.

“Sometimes I just put them up and run, and they’ve got no number on them to return them!”

It’s not just banners that Elaine has dotted all over Masterton’s landscape – she’s also made a life-size angel statue called Grace that’s now situated in Robinson Park.

“Grace is a symbol of strength and self-belief because at the end of the day, each of us is an angel with broken wings and we can only fly by embracing each other.”

There is even a letterbox at the back of the statue for anyone to post a personal message to a loved one they have lost or when they are going through a hard time.

“People just need a way to release and feel they are being heard in a place that isn’t a cemetery or a church where they can just go and reflect.”

Just a stone’s throw from the statue, Elaine has found the perfect spot for the anti-bullying Wall of Courage – a massive fence on the main route to the hospital.

As the fence is being festooned with banners, Elaine explains her mission.

“I’d like to strengthen the people who are being bullied so it doesn’t affect them. It’s time we stopped these bullies. It’s in the kindergartens now. Let the child be a child without being called names.”

Helping Elaine put up all the goodwill banners is her son Beaudene Hurndell.

“This is a really good start and hopefully the ball can roll from here to the people of New Zealand to just have a bit of self-worth about yourself and your family and friends around you, because you never know what anyone’s going through,” he says.

For now, the Masterton Wall of Courage is open for anyone to put up their own goodwill banner.

Elaine hopes a further 150 banners will be made by people from all walks of life, including school children.

“For the person who is being bullied, standing there reading their banners, they will feel supported and not on their own anymore. Here we can show people love as opposed to animosity.”

Phil Stebbing
Phil Stebbing
Phil Stebbing is Wairarapa’s Local Focus video journalist. He regularly covers in-depth stories on arts, culture, people, health, and the occasional cat.

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