Sunday, 07 June 2020


The Stories Whitianga's new murals tell

Six murals reflecting the Tuia - Encounters 250 themes of “Navigation” and “First Encounters” have been completed throughout the Whitianga CBD during last week’s Tuia 250 Street Art Festival.

Talented artists were invited to participate in the festival, which was organised by the Mercury Bay Art escape.  

Mercury Bay Art Escape founding artist, Dave Fowell’s mural is located against the Mercury Bay Pharmacy wall in Monk Street. Dave wanted to take a modern approach to the festival’s themes. His work features a contemporary depiction of a Pakeha woman and Māori man playing music together in front of an audience. In the background are sepia images of Māori and Pakeha figures with a woven wall between them to signify the gradual weaving together of two cultures. Within the figures, Dave has incorporated some female family members and a man taken from a painting on the wall of his parents’ home.

Pauly B’s mural can be found in Coghill Street on the side of Subway. Pauly is based in the Waikato and has previously created large murals in Auckland, Rotorua and Hamilton. His mural in Whitianga represents Māori first coming to Aotearoa as Pacific navigators. There were no people ashore yet to welcome them with a karanga. However, the land, trees and skies were full of birds. The first karanga was the bird song, calling out across the ocean. This was the very beginning of human habitation for New Zealand, setting the scene for many future arrivals - at first Polynesian and later European.

Pauly used a stencil projected onto the wall, which he then spray-painted over to create the cool-toned imagery contained in the mural.

Caitlin Moloney’s mural is next to the BNZ in Albert Street. Primarily a ceramic artist from Coromandel town, Caitlin’s art uses vibrant colours and detailed indigenous patterns. Her mural references the part fish played in guiding the early navigators to Aotearoa and signifies exploration through the eyes of nature. Stars on the large fish represent navigation. Caitlin hopes her mural will also draw attention to conservation of the ocean and the life within.

Mercury Bay Art Escape member, Monique Rush’s mural on the wall outside of Hammer Hardware in Blacksmith Lane draws inspiration from nature, Kiwiana and landscapes. The image combines ocean waves and creatures, pohutukawa flowers, birds, flax and fern, together with a Maori waka and HMS Endeavour (the explorer James Cook’s ship).

Internationally renowned street artists Flox and #TrustMe completed their mural in the service lane between The Cave and the Whitianga Town Hall in Monk Street. A stencil was created and projected onto the wall. It is one of the most detailed of the murals and features primarily a navigational theme.

Centred in the middle of the mural is a large outstretched koekoeā (long-tailed cuckoo), named Te Kawa. In an old Maori folklore tale, the lost voyager Whatonga was found when Te Kawa reached him carrying a tau ponapona (message cord) from his family, allowing him to find his way back home.

Other smaller details on the mural include a Polynesian stick chart which early navigators used to determine ocean tide and swell, stars to represent Matariki, fish scales to signify the marine environment, half crescents to portray the passage of the moon and patterns of circles and lines to reference the compass and European navigation.

Situated along the walkway between Blacksmith Lane and Taylor’s Mistake is a mural designed and painted by internationally recognised artists Charles and Janine Williams.

Having created murals throughout New Zealand and around the globe, the duo present their Māori heritage in an urban context that features modern interpretations of cultural design along with native New Zealand birdlife. Their Whitianga mural features New Zealand storm petrel birds in flight. Once thought extinct but rediscovered near the Mercury Islands in 2003, the storm petrel is reminiscent of the ancient navigational history of the Mercury Bay area. Great navigators followed not only the stars, but also the birdlife that travelled and migrated across the ocean.

A ribbon and wayfinders in the shape of indigenous triangular designs signifies momentum towards a greater future and opportunities. The warm rays of the sunrise extend out, far beyond the shores of Aotearoa across the Pacific to a place known historically as Rangiātea, the origin of Māori migration.

Also featuring on the mural is a saying in the local dialect of Rangiātea, “E kore au e ngaro, he kakano i ruia mai i Rangiātea.” Translated the saying means, “I will never be lost, for I am a seed sown in Rangiatea,” signifying the rich indigenous account of settling in New Zealand.

Mercury Bay Art Escape patron artist, Michael Smither, along with fellow Art Escape member, Anne Bowden, will also in due course have artworks displayed on walls in the Whitianga CBD. Anne will be creating mosaic signs for “Men” and “Ladies” to be placed at the entrances of the public toilets in Blacksmith Lane, once the planned renovation of the toilets is completed. The location of Michael’s artwork is yet to be announced.

Whitianga Art group member, Peter Nicholson, earlier this year completed a mural on the wall of the Mainly Casual building immediately next to the new Whitianga town plaza in Albert Street. The mural depicts the Endeavour ship and botanist Joseph Banks (a member of the Endeavour’s crew).

Permanent signage featuring the artists’ inspiration and the stories behind all the murals will soon be installed at each location.

“The murals have all been completed at a really opportune time,” says Jane Parson, main organiser of the Tuia 250 Street Art Festival. “They allow the Mercury Bay Art Escape to support and grow the visual arts community and the presence of visual arts in Mercury Bay, while commemorating the Tuia 250 themes. We are more than happy with everything that has been created last week.”

Pictured: Coromandel Town artist, Caitlin Moloney, on Friday last week, while she was in the process of completing her mural next to the BNZ in Albert Street in Whitianga.


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