Taking art to the street

Toihoukura school of Maori art and design students put their work up to the public.

Toihoukura school of Maori art and design students put their work up to the public.

Toihoukura Mural. The puff-chested matriarch of the forest is framed by two large triangles that represent mountains. The kereru is flanked by contemporary designs based on traditional Maori patterns.
FREED ART: Three caged tui and one in flight feature in contemporary urban artists’ Charles and Janine Williams’ seven by 10 metre mural in the Tauranga Art Gallery. The couple installed the mural as part of the Bay of Plenty city’s street art festival Paradox. Picture by Tauranga Art Gallery

AN imperious kereru perched against a celestial backdrop is at the heart of a new mural created by Toihoukura school of Maori art and design students. The 26-metre work was sprayed, painted and stencilled on a wall in Palmerston Road under guidance from Auckland-based street artists Charles and Janine Williams.

EIT Tairawhiti’s Toihoukura invited the couple to Gisborne to work on a mural with students and to talk about the evolution of street art.

“The work was all done by students and facilitated by Charles and Janine,” said Toihoukura lecturer Erena Koopu.

“Our students came up with the symbols and imagery they would use in the design that related to our theme.”

The title of the work is Te Poho o Te Kereru, the chest of the kereru, a reference to pride. The theme of pride relates to students’ and tutors’ pride in what they are doing at the school, Koopu said.

In the mural, the puff-chested matriarch of the forest is framed by two large triangles that represent mountains. The kereru is flanked by contemporary designs based on traditional Maori patterns.

Within the mountain motif to the left of the kereru is a tukutuku pattern known as poutama. The stepped pattern symbolises an ascent made by Tawhaki to collect the three kete of knowledge from the gods.

To the right of the kereru is a series of wave-like forms called te pohu te kereru that are made up of “podded” koru known as kape rua.

Te pohu te kereru refers to a wave break off Whangara. This ties in with Toihoukura students’ main study topic this term — Paikea, the whale rider.

“The mural subject was generated through two days of discussions and workshops with Charles and Janine and lectures about tagging, graffiti, street art and contemporary urban art,” Koopu said.

Students decided on the kereru to tie in with the bird motif often used by Charles and Janine Williams.

“We wanted a Paikea story related to birds,” Koopu said.

“I talked to Derek Lardelli and he told me a story about te pohu te kereru which was a wave break off Whangara.

The words translate literally as ‘the chest of the kereru’.

“Kape rua represents a lot of things. One is seed pods, the keepers of knowledge, history and genealogy.”

The yellow glow at each end of the mural symbolises sunrise in the east and sunset in the west.

“That is about capturing the sun; seizing the day and doing the best you can do and that comes back to EIT and education,” Koopu said.

This theme is underlined by fragments of text in the work.

The phrase “Herea te ra” refers to capturing the day, while further along the wall the words “Patua ki tahatu o te Rangi” also refer to taking hold of the day and doing the best you can.

Bracketing the mural are male moko designs. The pattern at the east end belongs to the lower half of the face while the moko at the other end features above the nose. Small triangular patterns made up of smaller triangles are niho taniwha forms, teeth of the taniwha.

“They function here as abstract clouds. But niho refer to teeth, biting and grasping something. That comes back to education.”

While most of the mural is sprayed on the poutama, the te poho o te kereru designs are painted. The luminous pale mauve kowhaiwhai by the kereru is stencilled in, as are the floating niho taniwha.

The project was clearly popular with Toihoukura’s artists.

“We’re looking for more walls,” said year two degree student Nolan Maru.

THE ART OF PARADOX

Before they visited Toihoukura to work in contemporary urban art with students, self-taught street artists Charles and Janine Williams were closely involved with the Paradox street art festival in Tauranga.

The Auckland-based couple were part of a trio of New Zealand artists who created a 7 by 10 metre mural in the Tauranga Art Gallery.

As suggested by festival organiser, and curator of the festival’s Banksy collection titled Oi You! George Shaw, the festival’s name is fitting given the Bay of Plenty’s conservative character.

“It was super-exciting to see the galley allow that scale to be worked on,” Janine Williams said.

“That was a huge leap of faith.”

Usually 80-120 people a day visit the gallery.

“On Saturday, 720 visitors, with a 20 minute wait, queued outside. It’s nice to see a gallery embracing an art form that could be scary for some people.”

The two artists met while out spraying.

“The culture is so small everyone knows everyone,” Williams said.

“Our eyes met across a crowded street.”

In their youth, the two artists were involved with graffiti but by the time they reached their early 20s, and with a growing family, they decided to go professional and legal.

Since then they have taken their art to the world and have become accustomed to working on a big scale. The bird motif developed as the couple evolved as street artists.

“We weren’t brought up in traditional Maori culture,” Williams said.

“The birds were a good way of connecting with the culture. We go to various regions to pick up stories from kaumatua and draw from that. Some are about the characteristics of the bird. That depends on who we are painting for and what we are painting.”

Toihoukura formed a relationship with the artists when tutors attended the Festival of Pacific Arts in Guam last year.

They met Charles and Janine Williams and invited them to Gisborne. The contemporary urban artists’ visit last week was part of the school’s kaupapa, which is to run regular wananga in various disciplines.

Two weeks ago, the school ran a wananga in clay work with Tokomaru Bay ceramicist Baye Riddell.

During the contemporary urban artists’ time here, Toihoukura students took lectures on the history of street art and about the processes involved in working on a large scale.

AN imperious kereru perched against a celestial backdrop is at the heart of a new mural created by Toihoukura school of Maori art and design students. The 26-metre work was sprayed, painted and stencilled on a wall in Palmerston Road under guidance from Auckland-based street artists Charles and Janine Williams.

EIT Tairawhiti’s Toihoukura invited the couple to Gisborne to work on a mural with students and to talk about the evolution of street art.

“The work was all done by students and facilitated by Charles and Janine,” said Toihoukura lecturer Erena Koopu.

“Our students came up with the symbols and imagery they would use in the design that related to our theme.”

The title of the work is Te Poho o Te Kereru, the chest of the kereru, a reference to pride. The theme of pride relates to students’ and tutors’ pride in what they are doing at the school, Koopu said.

In the mural, the puff-chested matriarch of the forest is framed by two large triangles that represent mountains. The kereru is flanked by contemporary designs based on traditional Maori patterns.

Within the mountain motif to the left of the kereru is a tukutuku pattern known as poutama. The stepped pattern symbolises an ascent made by Tawhaki to collect the three kete of knowledge from the gods.

To the right of the kereru is a series of wave-like forms called te pohu te kereru that are made up of “podded” koru known as kape rua.

Te pohu te kereru refers to a wave break off Whangara. This ties in with Toihoukura students’ main study topic this term — Paikea, the whale rider.

“The mural subject was generated through two days of discussions and workshops with Charles and Janine and lectures about tagging, graffiti, street art and contemporary urban art,” Koopu said.

Students decided on the kereru to tie in with the bird motif often used by Charles and Janine Williams.

“We wanted a Paikea story related to birds,” Koopu said.

“I talked to Derek Lardelli and he told me a story about te pohu te kereru which was a wave break off Whangara.

The words translate literally as ‘the chest of the kereru’.

“Kape rua represents a lot of things. One is seed pods, the keepers of knowledge, history and genealogy.”

The yellow glow at each end of the mural symbolises sunrise in the east and sunset in the west.

“That is about capturing the sun; seizing the day and doing the best you can do and that comes back to EIT and education,” Koopu said.

This theme is underlined by fragments of text in the work.

The phrase “Herea te ra” refers to capturing the day, while further along the wall the words “Patua ki tahatu o te Rangi” also refer to taking hold of the day and doing the best you can.

Bracketing the mural are male moko designs. The pattern at the east end belongs to the lower half of the face while the moko at the other end features above the nose. Small triangular patterns made up of smaller triangles are niho taniwha forms, teeth of the taniwha.

“They function here as abstract clouds. But niho refer to teeth, biting and grasping something. That comes back to education.”

While most of the mural is sprayed on the poutama, the te poho o te kereru designs are painted. The luminous pale mauve kowhaiwhai by the kereru is stencilled in, as are the floating niho taniwha.

The project was clearly popular with Toihoukura’s artists.

“We’re looking for more walls,” said year two degree student Nolan Maru.

THE ART OF PARADOX

Before they visited Toihoukura to work in contemporary urban art with students, self-taught street artists Charles and Janine Williams were closely involved with the Paradox street art festival in Tauranga.

The Auckland-based couple were part of a trio of New Zealand artists who created a 7 by 10 metre mural in the Tauranga Art Gallery.

As suggested by festival organiser, and curator of the festival’s Banksy collection titled Oi You! George Shaw, the festival’s name is fitting given the Bay of Plenty’s conservative character.

“It was super-exciting to see the galley allow that scale to be worked on,” Janine Williams said.

“That was a huge leap of faith.”

Usually 80-120 people a day visit the gallery.

“On Saturday, 720 visitors, with a 20 minute wait, queued outside. It’s nice to see a gallery embracing an art form that could be scary for some people.”

The two artists met while out spraying.

“The culture is so small everyone knows everyone,” Williams said.

“Our eyes met across a crowded street.”

In their youth, the two artists were involved with graffiti but by the time they reached their early 20s, and with a growing family, they decided to go professional and legal.

Since then they have taken their art to the world and have become accustomed to working on a big scale. The bird motif developed as the couple evolved as street artists.

“We weren’t brought up in traditional Maori culture,” Williams said.

“The birds were a good way of connecting with the culture. We go to various regions to pick up stories from kaumatua and draw from that. Some are about the characteristics of the bird. That depends on who we are painting for and what we are painting.”

Toihoukura formed a relationship with the artists when tutors attended the Festival of Pacific Arts in Guam last year.

They met Charles and Janine Williams and invited them to Gisborne. The contemporary urban artists’ visit last week was part of the school’s kaupapa, which is to run regular wananga in various disciplines.

Two weeks ago, the school ran a wananga in clay work with Tokomaru Bay ceramicist Baye Riddell.

During the contemporary urban artists’ time here, Toihoukura students took lectures on the history of street art and about the processes involved in working on a large scale.

The Paradox street art festival in Tauranga ends June 15.

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