We are one

Staff and students of Palmerston North Girls’ High School arts department came up with a unique way to support victims of the Christchurch terror attacks.

Throughout history artists have responded to events - both good and horrific - as an outlet for their voice. This is exactly what students and the art department at Palmerston North Girls’ High School did in response to the Christchurch terror attacks.

Digital visual arts teacher Samara Doole worked with her students as part of a collaborative photography unity project. The result has been printed onto t-shirts which the school community now wear with pride.

Channeling horror, sadness and shock to fuel something positive

“We have a large Muslim roll at our school and, even though we are in a completely different island, students and staff felt the impact of the attack. As art teachers we found this to be a situation where our community could channel our frustration, horror, sadness and shock and use it to fuel something positive – a collaborative artwork,” she said.

With the wider school already thinking of fundraising strategies the idea of ‘helping hands’ was at the front of their minds, Samara said.

Unique yet similar

“We use hands when we talk to express our emotions and the art department thought it would be a great way to show how unique each person is while still looking the same from the outside. An open palm is universally recognised as a symbol of protection as well as representing strength, blessings and power.”

The project was inspired by photographer Angelica Dass’s The Humanae Project, where she tried to record all possible human skin tones through photographs as Pantone colours, Samara said.

They photographed different hands to show how unique, yet similar, each individual at Palmerston North Girls’ was and that people should not be judged by the colour of their skin.

As humans, we are one

Students and staff came to the school’s photography studio to have their hands photographed in a pose they desired in front of a white background. This was then transferred to Photoshop where the skin colours were selected via the eyedropper tool to replace the background colour. The resulting image was then cropped to a square and added to the overall unity grid.

“We encouraged different poses to make prominent the idea of uniqueness and also highlighted each skin colour in the background squares to emphasise this further. Put together as one grid it represents the unity between people’s individual and unique qualities and the ones that make us the same, as humans. We are one.”

Staff and students were incredibly supportive of the project, Samara said. “We now have the image printed on t-shirts, alongside the words ‘We are one’ and ‘He iwi kotahi tātou’, that our community is wearing to show our unity.”

“Students love it and have been putting in orders for our unity t-shirts. The girls whose hands feature on the image are especially proud and feel part of something positive and special,” she said.

An amazing, collaborative project

“Our Muslim students have been overwhelmed by the love and support that has come out of this horrific event.”

“I am really proud and honoured that I get to teach alongside students who can look beyond themselves and are committed to making a difference. It was an amazing, collaborative project I feel privileged to have worked on,” she said.

To members of the Christchurch community reading this article Samara says “just know that we are with you. We are still with you and will always be with you. We are all unique, all individual, yet we are unified in this beautiful country. I hope that this artwork can represent how much we stand beside you because we are one. He iwi kotahi tātou.


Unity t shirt web

Samara Doole models Palmerston North Girls' High School's unity t-shirt


Support for Canterbury (PPTA hardship fund) 

How parents and teachers can respond to the shooting 

Recovery and wellbeing advice after the tragic event of 15 March (education.govt.nz) 

Last modified on Friday, 28 June 2019 11:51