For me the Waituhi project was another chance to bring something Māori into the urban landscape. Stepping onto the streets in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, you’d be hard pressed to see anything Māori. Street art is a great way to reach the public and being able to put Maori art out there means I can bring Maori culture and stories to the people.
Working closely with The Wellington City Council I created a design which synthesized the three key themes – the site and its significance, matariki and kaitiakitanga – into a unified visual narrative.
The foreshore element which appears to the right of the artwork acknowledges that the site was the former shoreline and a place of gathering kai (food) for local iwi. The waves crash upon the urban space and around the deity Tangaroa (god of the sea and waterways).
Kaitiakitanga is expressed through the figure of Tāwhirimātea, the guardian of Wellington, who castes his furious winds down upon Tangaroa. The battle between these two gods alludes to the Māori creation story, in which Ranginui and Papatūānuku were pushed apart by their sons.
Within this tumultuous tableau, the deity Rongo-maraeroa rises from the ground. As the god of kūmara and peace, it made sense to use Rongo-maraeroa to represent Matariki as a time of year for re-planting and renewal. Matariki is also more literally represented by the Plieades star group, and by the rendering of the physical doorway as an entrance to a rua kūmara (kūmara pit). A figure can also be seen beneath Rongo preparing the land.
As my first attempt at street art I couldn't have completed Waituhi without a lot of help. In particular, my fellow artist and friend, Reweti Arapere helped to paint the mural and also provided valuable insight around how I might best translate the design onto the wall. Others who also helped paint the mural include my wife (Michelle), Ephraim Russell, John Moore, Miriame Barbarich and Suzanne Tamaki.
A final shout out goes to Blake Dunlop for creating the amazing video of the process. And to photographers Justine Hall and Neil Price who also helped capture the work.
As the whakatauki (proverb) goes, Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini - My success should not be bestowed onto me alone, as it was not individual success but success of a collective. Nga mihi nui ki a koutou e hoa ma.