National | Arts

Te Arawa ancestors inspire Rotorua Mural Symposium

Rotorua is hosting its first Mural Symposium showcasing eight talented Māori and non-Māori muralists.  The large designs produced by local and invited artists from around the wider Bay of Plenty and overseas will go on to be displayed around the city.

Te Arawa high priest Ngātoroirangi is the inspiration for two of the artists.

“The high priest Ngatoroirangi climbed Tongariro,” says Jacob Chrisoboou (Ngāti Porou), “He was struck by bad weather.  He called out to his two sisters Te Pupu and Te Hoata and they came under the ground as fire and created the thermal landscape from White Island to Tongariro."

Artist Debbi Thyne (Ngāi Tahu) says, “The figures [in the carving] are mythical figures.  So I've kind of depicted taniwha, they're almost like subterranean taniwha.”

Mud and steam is the theme of the symposium, with the winning artist receiving $10, 000 and a people's choice award of $1,000 as voted by the public.

But money isn't an incentive for one local.

“This shows a girl who is soaking in the healing pools and also mud waters,” says Reagan Balzar (Te Arawa, Tūhourangi, Tauranga Moana).

“That's what our ancestors did, so this is a customary practice that continues today."

In August artists were invited by the Rotorua Arts Village to submit their interpretations of the theme.

From 20 submissions, eight were chosen- each with different techniques.

Event Co-ordinator, Helen English says, “The community arts advisor is really keen to see public art being put into Rotorua and really we want to see the streets come alive in the way that they should to reflect the community.”

“I started off on a spray can with graffiti and tagging as a kid,” said Chrisoboou. “And I naturally progressed to [mural art]. With an airbrush, you can get finer details.”

The winning artists will be announced on Sunday. The artwork is expected to be displayed along the city's Eruera and Amohia streets next week.