The gifting of the Featherston Camp Sculpture on Saturday. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

A new sculpture in Featherston held a strong significance on this year’s Armistice Day as it became a powerful reminder of the town’s role in World War I.

The sculpture, that commemorates the Featherston Military Training Camp, the country’s largest military camp, was gifted to the Featherston community on Saturday in a comprehensive ceremony.

Created by artists Paul and Jan Dibble, the dark, slanted structures are imprinted on one side with soldiers and horses marching towards the Remutaka Ranges.

On the other side are the names and places connecting Featherston and the prisoner of war camp.

Featherston Camp Sculpture Trust secretary Jean McDowall said the number of people who attended the ceremony on Saturday was ‘amazing’.

“It was a dream come true for Paul and Fran Dibble as well as for the trust.

“It was just a huge demonstration of support for education through public art,” she said.

McDowall described the $600,000 sculpture as a “thing of beauty”.

“Everyone is welcome to get right up close, touch it, read it – it’s about the community, the spectators and the descendants and people interested,” she said.

South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier announced the official name of the sculpture on Saturday: Featherston Stand/He Tino Mamao.

McDowall said the name tied in many elements of what the community and the trust wanted.

‘He Tino Mamao’ was the most popular option in a public survey, however the trust and the Dibbles wanted the town’s name in it, hence Featherston Stand.

The Maori Pioneer Battalion sang their own version of ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’, with ‘He Tino Mamao’ translating to “It’s very far away”.

Paul Dibble is renowned for a similar sculpture in Hyde Park, London called Southern Stand.

It represents New Zealand’s contribution to World War I and the trust wanted to reciprocate that.

Napier was also blown away by the number of people at Saturday’s ceremony.

“The sculpture is so well done. When you go up and look at all the detail, it’s amazing.

Napier said it will be a major attraction for the town and hopefully encourage people to stop and learn more about the town’s connection to the war.

Around 60,000 New Zealand soldiers who served overseas spent time at the Featherston Camp, about two-thirds of the total.