DP Photo Challenge: names, take 2

Headstone of Emily Keeling, a 17 year old girl shot in Auckland, 2 April, 1886. Image: Su Leslie, 2012

Seen several years ago in an old Auckland cemetery. I read the word “shot” on this headstone inscription and knew I had to learn more about the life of Emily Keeling. Image: Su Leslie, 2013

Sometimes, all that remains for us to know and honour the dead are their headstones in long-abandoned cemeteries.

Four years ago, I found — quite by accident — this headstone.

Sacred to the memory of Emily Mary the beloved daughter of George and Emily Keeling of Arch Hill who was shot while on her way to the Primitive Methodist Church Bible Class Alexandra Street April 2nd 1886. Aged 17 years.

Guns deaths have traditionally been rare New Zealand, so I was curious as to how a 17 year old girl came to be shot dead on what was, even in 1886, an urban street.

So like any family historian, I went home and researched the life and death of Emily Keeling.

It’s a tragic story. Emily was a victim of intimate, or partner, violence — shot by a young man whose offer of marriage she had rejected.

I’ve written about Emily’s story in more detail in other posts:

And now for something completely different

A monument to loss, and a touchstone for action

Remembering Emily Keeling and working to end domestic violence

Four years ago the name Emily Keeling meant nothing to me. Now that I know her story, she has joined that tragically long list of names of New Zealand women murdered by men who knew and claimed to love them.

Names we must never forget — a list we must work to end.

WP Photo Challenge: symbol

Kowhai: the unofficial national flower of New Zealand, and symbol of Women's Refuge NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Kowhai: the unofficial national flower of New Zealand, and symbol of Women’s Refuge NZ. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

The native New Zealand Kowhai tree is known and loved for its healing properties and beauty. Our logo features its delicate, vibrant flower in the universal symbol of women — the perfect portrayal of Women’s Refuge and our values. Women’s Refuge NZ

Symbol: noun. something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign. Source: Dictionary.com

Logos are a particular subset of symbols; a visual representation of a brand, rather than a concept. In the case of Women’s Refuge, it’s a social, not a commercial brand; a symbol of hope and healing for the thousands of (mainly) women and children in this country who are affected by domestic violence.

I have a strong connection with Women’s Refuge through my involvement with NZ Sculpture OnShore which raises funds for, and awareness of, the work Refuge does.

It is in part because of these fundraising efforts that Women’s Refuge has been able to develop a source of sustainable income.  Yellow Belle (a very apt description of the kowhai flower), is a chain of upmarket recycled women’s clothing boutiques. The stores accept donations of designer clothing and on-sell it — generating valuable income and helping to increase awareness of domestic violence and Refuge’s work. A second brand, Kowhai Tree, is currently being developed to focus on sourcing, warehousing and distributing household goods and clothing to women and children leaving Refuge — many of whom arrive with no more than the clothes they are wearing.


Single Kowhai flower. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

So for me, seeing Kowhai trees in bloom — as they are at the moment —  is especially meaningful.


Kowhai buds. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

This post was written for the Daily Post weekly Photo Challenge. The theme this week is “symbol.

PS: this is the actual Women’s Refuge logo.

Logo of Women's Refuge New Zealand.

Logo of Women’s Refuge New Zealand.

Wordless Wednesday: a milestone reached

Yellow Belle; an upmarket recycled clothing boutique owned by Women's Refuge was officially launched last night. Seed funding was provided by NZ Sculpture OnShore, of which I am a director.  Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

Yellow Belle; an upmarket recycled clothing boutique owned by Women’s Refuge was officially launched last night. Seed funding was provided by NZ Sculpture OnShore, a biennial sculpture exhibition which is a major fundraiser for Women’s Refuge. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

Women’s Refuge helps over 20,000 women and children in New Zealand each year who are affected by domestic violence. Yellow Belle marks a new phase in Refuge’s history – providing on-going income that will allow the organisation to do even more.

It was lovely to be part of the launch celebration; to be surrounded by strong, passionate women who give so much of themselves to bring about change for the better.

This post was written for Wordless Wednesday. Here are some others that I’ve enjoyed:





Wordless Wednesday: 4-30-14


Wordless Wednesday: Recasting Gotham’s top-cop



Wordless Wednesday



Wordless Wednesday


Wordless Wednesday: Sky high!







Wordless Wednesday – bird watching


Wordless Wednesday: A Walk in the Park





Remembering Emily Keeling: and working to end domestic violence

Laying flowers for Emily Keeling

Laying flowers for Emily Keeling

A few weeks ago my partner and I were walking in Symonds Street Cemetary in Auckland and chanced to find the grave of a young woman who had been fatally shot in 1886. Since this was Auckland in 1886, and New Zealand has generally been considered a fairly safe place, I was determined to find out the story behind the death of Emily Keeling.

Headstone for Emily Mary Keeling, died 2 April 1886.

Headstone for Emily Mary Keeling, died 2 April 1886.

I’ve written about it in my family history blog, Shaking the Tree, but essentially Emily Keeling was a 17 year old on her way to Bible Class when she was shot by a young man who claimed he loved her and could not live without her. He killed Emily and then himself.

Yesterday was the 127th anniversary of Emily’s murder, and I went back to Symonds Street cemetery to lay flowers on her grave. With me were two wonderful women friends who also wanted to remember and honour Emily Keeling and all the other victims of domestic violence.

You can read Dee’s moving blog post about our trip here.

One of the reasons we have taken up Emily’s story is that we are all Trustees of the Friends of Women’s Refuges Trust (FoWRT).

This organisation was set up almost 20 years ago by a group of women on Auckland’s North Shore, to fundraise for Women’s Refuge. FoWRT has done this by organising what has become a major and important biennial sculpture exhibition – Sculpture on Shore.

In 2012, Sculpture on Shore exhibited work from over 100 New Zealand artists and artists’ collectives, attracting over 17,500 visitors. The range of work is diverse and extraordinary and in some cases, created specifically to reference the site, or the issue of domestic violence – as in the case of Bernie Harfleet’s 14 , and Turtle Donna Sarten’s Black and White and Red all over.

Since its inception, Sculpture on Shore has raised over NZ$1.2 million for Women’s Refuge. It’s a huge undertaking that relies very heavily on volunteers – over 200 volunteers in 2012. That’s two hundred plus amazing people who give up hours, days – and in the case of some, like my friend Alix, weeks – of their lives to make the exhibition work; to make it wonderful for the thousands who come to see it.

The first time I went to Sculpture on Shore was about 10 years ago. What I remember most about that occasion was my son – then aged about five – running from exhibit to exhibit shouting out the prices, and telling us we couldn’t afford them! By last year he’d managed to slow down enough to appreciate the art, and went home with a plan to submit a proposal to have a piece of his own accepted in 2014!

But that’s an aside. The real point about Sculpture on Shore is that at heart, it is an act of love and of compassion and of solidarity with the many victims of domestic violence in New Zealand. Artists, visitors, and all those who organise, staff and support the event do so not just for the love of art, but because we become part of a tangible, powerful force for change. In New Zealand, on average 14 women, six men and ten children are killed by a member of their family each year – a statistic poignantly highlighted in Bernie Harfleet’s 14.  NZ Police are called to domestic violence situations on average once every seven minutes.

Reading the newspaper reports that followed Emily Keeling’s death, it appears that her killer had not tried to harm her before the fatal shooting, which in some ways makes his actions even more shocking. We may never be able to prevent such men (or women) from harming those they claim to love, but that doesn’t mean we are helpless. When it is estimated that one in three New Zealand women will experience psychological or physical abuse from their partner at some time in their life, it is likely that we all know someone who is a victim. Women’s Refuge is one of the key organisations helping those who experience domestic violence, but we are all able – on a personal level – to show the same love and compassion and solidarity that underpins Sculpture on Shore.

Dee and Alix at Emily Keeling's graveside. April 2nd, the anniversary of her murder.

Dee and Alix at Emily Keeling’s graveside. April 2nd, the anniversary of her murder.