For two decades Gazellah Bruder, a Port Moresby-based fine artist, has produced fabric prints but held long-term plans to expand her repertoire to sculpture.
There was no time to hesitate when the opportunity arose to submit a concept for the Constitution Walk sculptures, supported by the Australian Government through the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct.
The proposal was accepted and, in amongst working full-time and being a single mum, she undertook the intensive seven week process of constructing her enormous debut commission.
Gazellah’s 6-by-3 metre piece, entitled Happy Family, Happy Nation, draws on ‘integral human development’, the first National Goal and Directive Principle enshrined in Papua New Guinea’s Constitution and her own family for inspiration.
“Family is the foundation of every society when it comes to good governance and having a happy nation,” she said.
“The sculpture is symbolic of families nowadays – any group of people who can depend on each other – it can be five men, or it can be one mother and two children.
“I’m a single mum with two kids, it may not be ‘conventional’ but it’s a full family as far as I’m concerned.”
In between parenting, printing and sculpting, Gazellah works as creative director at the newly opened PNG Fine Art Gallery.
She believes Papua New Guinean art creates a connection between people and the spaces they occupy – be it an outdoors or in an office.
“Any space works well when there’s elements of tradition and culture in it. We feel ownership, we are attached to it and we feel that is really ours,” she said.
“It may not be where they are specifically from, but people can recognise that it has elements of PNG designs, patterns or symbols. If we see a building and there is no PNG element to it, people don’t feel comfortable with it – they don’t feel drawn to it.”
Gazellah is a firm believer that the interpretation of art is subjective. She wants her piece to be interacted with and become the subject of discussion.
“Mine is a very organic shape, it’s rounded,” she said, “we had to bend steel, twist it and hammer it in, and try to create a shape that I thought was suitable for the environment.”
“I want people to touch it, walk up close and take selfies. I want people to take shelter when it’s hot and I want kids to play. You want people to do that – you want to connect with people.
“I was listening to the people,” Gazellah continued, “they said looks like lambs, baby sheep, turtles and some saw it as happy people.”
“It can be anything. You just want people to react to it – negative or positive – you want people to talk about it and, in that way, they become part of your artwork.”
Gazellah is an Arts graduate from UPNG but has held various roles aside from painting; from being a TV children’s program presenter to working in corporate organisations and now to sculpting full time has not only coloured her curriculum vitae – but also has landed herself a big opportunity to give back to the university that she attended – having her art displayed for the community there to enjoy!