New public artwork by Te Tuhi Mareikura Collective has been officially opened by Tauranga City Council at Memorial Park. The artwork was commissioned for the public-facing walls of a new pump station building at the back of the park.
The artwork refers to past, present and future uses of Memorial Park. It includes images of red poppies to pay tribute to ANZAC soldiers and kumara diggers to acknowledge Memorial Park’s early use by Māori for large scale kumara gardens.
Te Tuhi Mareikura Collective artists who collaborated on the work are Julie Paama-Pengelly, Kereama Taepa, Tracey Tawhiao and Reweti Arapere, each established artists in their own right with extensive experience in public and large scale works.
The artwork, titled Mana Tangata, Mana Moana, Mana Atua, Mana Whenua, is the culmination of a lengthy public art submissions process that saw Creative Bay of Plenty–Te Moana a Toi managing the submissions process for Council and subsequent screening by the public art advisory group last year.
Clinton Bowyer, chairman of the public art advisory group, said he hoped to see more art considered for public infrastructure projects. “It was going to cost over $60,000 for standard anti-graffiti cladding which would have left the city with a large, drab building. Instead we have a vibrant mural by world class artists that celebrates our local stories,” said Clinton.
Lena Kovac, Creative Bay of Plenty General Manager, said that the project succeeded thanks to a good working relationship between Tauranga City Council and Creative Bay of Plenty – Te Moana a Toi. “This project attracted artists who are successful on the world stage, and it all started when one of the council’s projects engineers had the insight to see potential for adding artistic merit to what would otherwise have been functional anti-graffiti treatment,” Lena said.
Artist Reweti Arapere said that the three kumara diggers he created for the mural represent the three iwi of Tauranga Moana, and that one of the figures also acknowledges his former mentor and teacher, Awanui Black, who passed away last year. “He was a person who embodied the idea of mana whenua. He was a great advocate of commemorative gatherings like Gate Pā that allowed people to grieve and commemorate those who have passed away, which is similar to Memorial Park’s whole idea of ANZAC.”
Kaumatua Kalani Tārawa, who blessed the artwork at its official opening on Friday, said that Māori have been decorating their community buildings for centuries with artwork that tells the story of the place and its people.