Whanganui obtains recognition from UNESCO as “City of Design”

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Sarjeant Gallery in Whanganui. Photo / Supplied

Whanganui has been officially recognized as a UNESCO City of Design.

This means that Whanganui gets a place in the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Creative Cities Network and that his historical and contemporary contributions to design are recognized internationally.

Whanganui is only the fourth city in New Zealand to be recognized by the Creative Cities Network with Dunedin as the city of literature, Wellington as the city of cinema and Auckland as the city of music.

Whanganui will be the country’s only design city.

Around the world, 49 new cities have joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) following their designation by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay on Tuesday.

The selection rewards the commitments of the various cities to place culture and creativity at the heart of their development and to share knowledge and good practices.

Whanganui & Partners launched the application process for the City of Design recognition in August last year.

He said that creativity, innovative spirit, cultural integrity and the strength of artistic tradition have helped Whanganui cross the line for international recognition.

Dr Emma Bugden, Strategic Head of Creative Industries at Whanganui & Partners, led the application and worked with over 100 partners and professional bodies during the process.

Bugden said Whanganui’s status as a member of the RVCU will be championed and celebrated and should be a source of pride for the entire community.

“The designation will be at the forefront of Whanganui’s profile in promoting the city and in our sense of identity,” she said.

“Our intention is that the narrative of our city, the way we speak and think about ourselves, include our status as a UNESCO City of Design as a matter of custom. “

Bugden had contacted the 41 international cities of design to inform them of Whanganui’s candidacy and had spoken to representatives from Singapore and Geelong, Australia, to gain insight into the process.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was created in 2004 to promote cooperation among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.

The network has 246 cities, all of which place creativity at the heart of their development plans and cooperate with other international cities that share these goals.

As a city of design, Bugden said Whanganui will learn and partner with a global network of leaders.

She said being part of UCCN would strengthen Whanganui’s ties with indigenous creators around the world.

“With a particular focus on how indigenous voices are reflected in the creation of places and the visual identity of cities.”

Mayor Hamish McDouall said the goals of the RVCU are aligned with the philosophy of the Whanganui District Council by encouraging partnerships, promoting connectivity and innovative approaches as well as safeguarding cultural heritage and natural resources.

“Our creative environment has always nourished the creators of our community, from our important artistic heritage to our position as a creative hub.

“Joining other UNESCO Creative Cities will allow us to connect to like-minded places and allow Whanganui to bring our singular vision to this creative community. “

Whanganui designer Cecelia Kumeroa contributed to the nomination and helped welcome the UNESCO commissioners during their visit to Whanganui.

“He tohu o te wa,” she said. “Our conceptions are informed by our awa, our taiao, our stories.

“I am so happy for all of us at Whanganui. This is a huge victory for all of us.”

She said her group Tupoho is currently immersed in design work.

“We translate our thinking into a comprehensive narrative for Tā Archie Taiaroa Pataka – the new wing of the Sarjeant Gallery, where we will integrate our cultural symbols and aspirations for the future.”

Bugden said Whanganui could celebrate the significance of UNESCO’s recognition in stories exploring our design heritage.

“Our connection with the network will form a sense of community and a positive understanding as we learn from other cities,” she said.

“Reflecting on their stories will allow us to embrace this exceptional status as a reflection of shared values ​​and character.”

Bugden said being a city of design reflects Whanganui’s historic contribution to creativity, artistry and innovation from Maori designers alongside awa for over 800 years, to the visionary architects who created the breathtaking iconic buildings of the city.

It also showed the promise of Whanganui’s design future.

“Our creatives can be proud of this recognition,” Bugden said. “We are confident in Whanganui’s ability to contribute to a creative international community.”

Bugden was assisted by a City of Design coordination team, which included Scott Flutey, Whanganui District Council Heritage Advisor, Jonathan Sykes, Acting Managing Director of Whanganui & Partners, and Rebecca Black, Senior Communications Advisor.


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