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PM - Unveiling of ‘Kiwi’ Sculpture at Berlin Zoo


Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Unveiling of ‘Kiwi’ Sculpture at Berlin Zoo

10.30am (8.30 pm NZ)
Thursday 27 April 2005

It is a pleasure for me to visit the very famous and historic Berlin Zoo.

I come here today, both as New Zealand Prime Minister and as Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage.

It is my pleasant duty to promote New Zealand’s art and culture in New Zealand and to the wider world.

New Zealand and Germany have established a number of arts and cultural links.

Earlier this year New Zealand and Germany signed a Film Co-Production Treaty for the first time. One of New Zealand’s most successful movies in recent times, Whale Rider, was a New Zealand-German co-production, and it is hoped that the new formal agreement will encourage more such collaboration.

Five years ago the New Zealand Government’s arts funding agency established a writers and artists residency, which enables each year a writer or artist from our country to live in Berlin for up to twelve months.

Berlin is known as a cultural capital, and it attracts New Zealand’s visual and performing artists as it does artists from around the world. Our Embassy knows of about fifteen New Zealand artists based here at this time.

One of our artists who has exhibited in Berlin is Jeff Thomson.

Jeff is a sculptor, with a well-deserved reputation for the originality of his work. He has made extraordinary sculptures out of corrugated iron, a material commonly used on the roofs of houses in New Zealand.

Jeff’s exhibition here was made possible with the assistance of Frau Annelie Brusten, and of Dr Rips of the German Mieterbund (Tenants’ Associations). I understand that the organisers of the exhibition are with us today.

At that exhibition, our Ambassador, Peter Hamilton, and Jeff discussed Jeff’s work with Frau Professor Edda Müller.

I understand that when Professor Müller saw a photo of the magnificent elephant sculpture which Jeff had created for the entrance way to Auckland Zoo in New Zealand, she suggested that he consider creating a sculpture for the Berlin Zoo.

So we have Professor Müller to thank for the fact that we are here today to unveil this sculpture!

Rather than create another elephant sculpture, it was agreed that Jeff should design a “larger than life” kiwi for permanent display at the zoo.

This is particularly appropriate because Berlin Zoo is one of only two zoos in Europe which have successfully bred New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi. The tribute for this must go to Dr Lange, Dr Reinhard, and the zoo staff. I should add that the other zoo successfully breeding kiwis is also a German zoo – the Frankfurt Zoo.

It is this sculpture of a kiwi which I am delighted to unveil today, and I am just as keen as everyone else present to see what Jeff has created.

It is not a simple exercise to bring a sculpture of this size all the way around the world from New Zealand to Berlin. The New Zealand Government has given support to the project through our new Cultural Diplomacy Fund. As well, I would like to make special mention of two other sponsors who have assisted with this project :

- Air New Zealand, our national airline, has helped with airfreighting the sculpture from New Zealand. Jutta Simon, the General Manager of Air New Zealand in Frankfurt, is here today.

- Jutta, thank you very much for your help and contribution.

- The project was also greatly assisted by Zespri International, which markets New Zealand kiwifruit under the high quality Zespri brand in Germany. The name “kiwifruit” was chosen for this high value fruit many years ago, because the kiwi is well known as a symbol of New Zealand. This makes Zespri a natural sponsor of this kiwi sculpture.

Jean Louis Warimont and Luc Clerx, from Zespri International based in Antwerp, are with us today, and I thank you both for your support.

Today’s unveiling of the kiwi sculpture achieves two purposes.

- It acknowledges the work of Berlin Zoo in developing ornithological and other ties to New Zealand, particularly in its successful breeding of our national bird.

- It also provides a unique sculpture for the people of Berlin. In this way New Zealand can thank the people of this great city for their friendship and the interest they have shown in New Zealand’s people, arts and culture, and natural heritage.

I hope Jeff Thomson’s sculpture, when it is moved to its eventual permanent position, will become a feature attraction for visitors to the Berlin Zoo.

Dr Reinhard, you will no doubt have to answer questions about whether kiwis really are as big as portrayed by the sculpture. You may have to explain the difference between the small kiwi in actuality and the extinct moa. The moa was at least as big as Jeff’s sculpture, if not much bigger. Maybe a moa sculpture should be the next project!

My thanks also go to Jeff Thomson for making this gift to Berlin Zoo possible. Jeff’s sculptures are to be found not only in New Zealand, but also in Australia, the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom. I understand that Jeff has recently created sculptures for British comedian Billy Connelly, which will now be somewhere in Scotland.

But from today, Jeff Thomson’s work will also have a place in the heart of this cultural capital, Berlin.

It is now my pleasure to unveil the Jeff Thompson kiwi sculpture.

Thank you.


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