Call for help with a NZ peace garden in France

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Kiwis are being asked to help fund a New Zealand peace garden in the French town of Le Quesnoy, which is being built for Armistice Day centenary commemorations in November.

Xanthe White Design was chosen by an international jury to build the 2000 sq metre permanent garden in an old citadel. The project’s been funded by the French Government, the Region Haut-de-France, New Zealand/France friendship fund and an organisation called Art & Jardins Hauts-de-France. But senior designer Zoe Carafice of XWD says the budget is tiny for what they want to create.

“It’s a huge site so we’ll need up to four thousand plants,” Carafice says. “We’re trying to raise enough money so that we can also have things like seating in the garden. ”The peace garden is one of 15 being built at various World War I sites across France, each representing a different country. Le Quesnoy has a special link to New Zealand, after it was liberated from the Germans by Kiwi soldiers on November 4, 1918. Many of the town’s streets have New Zealand names. Le Quesnoy will also be the site of the New Zealand War Memorial Museum recognising our role in WW1.

 The overgrown meadow which is to be transformed into the peace garden.

The overgrown meadow which is to be transformed into the peace garden.

“We believe the way to acknowledge the story of our men and the town Le Quesnoy is to create a space that unites our cultures and allows visitors to be transported from France into a space that reflects our home and offers an opportunity for meditation to visitors now and into the future,” Carafice says. “We looked at creating a sense of peace in terms of the Maori concept of Rangimarie, which is space of calm that exists in the hours before dawn, a space of peace where you can have the opportunity to connect with your ancestors.”

There will be two types of garden: one which will leave blocks of the meadow as is, with red poppies sown through it; and another rich with reds and colour that will be the designers koha to the town, a thanks for looking after fallen New Zealand soldiers for the last 100 years.

“It’ll be overflowing, almost like baskets of gifts that are full of flowers, edibles, medicinal plants and New Zealand plants like flax and native grasses,” Carafice says.

“As the people of Le Quesnoy have looked after our tupuna (ancestors) for 100 years the concept of the garden is to create a place of rangimarie or calm where we can find the space to walk with our ancestors. While the memorial and the museum tell their stories and remember their names, to walk with them again we need to be able to leave the raru (conflict) and noise of this world and enter a state of calm and quiet reflection.

 A concept drawing of the New Zealand peace garden planned for Les Quesnoy in France.

A concept drawing of the New Zealand peace garden planned for Les Quesnoy in France.

“We thought it would be wonderful for New Zealanders to continue our circle of koha to give something from us to the garden to make it a special place for the town of Le Quesnoy but also a special place for the New Zealanders that visit every year to remember their ancestors.”

The design team leaves for France in a few weeks, so need donations via their Pledgeme campaign quickly.

 The designers want the garden to overflow like gift baskets. 

The designers want the garden to overflow like gift baskets. 

Any funds raised beyond that spent on the garden we would like to put towards setting up a reforestation trust in Le Quesnoy. Not only did France lose many historic sites during WW1, it lost almost all of its forest, the trees were cut down and the whole landscape became nothing but mud, so if we’re able to raise money beyond the seats we want to put it towards the formation of a trust to assist the North of France in re-establishing a reforestation programme working with community groups and community nurseries kiwi style so that in another 100 years the friendship that started in Le Quesnoy can grow to give back to France something that they have lost which is something that we value the most.

More information about donating can be found here and you can hear from Xanthe White in the video below.