Lanterns bring joy and the promise of longer days



A northern-hemisphere, mid-winter parade inspired artist Yvonne de Mille to recreate in her adopted home-town of Otaki the lanterns she’d seen carried through the streets of the Cornish town of Truro.


“I was living in Truro in 2005-06 and they had this fantastic mid-winter, low tech, lantern parade,” she said.


“They had the most incredible lanterns all made from willow and paper. Some of them took six people to carry them - it was just people walking with lanterns or playing musical instruments or drums.”


When she first moved to Otaki, the town was looking for promotional ideas. She suggested a lantern parade and along with another of her ideas, a kite festival, she has helped create highly successful events.


“I'd love to see a lantern festival on the scale of the one I saw in Truro,” she says. 


Mahara Gallery Director Janet Bayly is delighted that Yvonne agreed to run lantern workshops at the Gallery as part of the Matariki celebration.


“Yvonne’s kites and lanterns have been a popular part of Matariki exhibitions in the past. It’s great that she has been able to be a key figure in our programme and artist in residence this year.”

Yvonne says there hasn't been as much of a lantern-making tradition in New Zealand as in northern hemisphere countries.


“But now that Matariki is more of a celebration and coincides with winter and the solstice, lanterns are a perfect addition to the celebratory motifs,” she says.


“I like to think of it as bringing light into the darkness and a celebration of the days growing longer again.”


She sees the satisfaction of lantern-making being in the simple construction that allows for different creative interpretations.


“People are always so joyful when they see what they have made,” she says.


“Lanterns also go hand in hand with being outdoors in the dark and sitting around an open fire spending time with friends and family.”


Photo: working on lanterns during one of Yvonne de Mille’s Mahara Gallery workshops are from left Piper Caldwell, Harriet Bright, Sophie Cudby and Yvonne de Mille.