National | Pukekohe

New mural helping to heal Pukekohe’s racist past

Visual artist Jimmy James Kouratoras of Ngati Tiipa, has created a large mural in the South Auckland town of Pukekohe, that acknowledges its racist past and aims to create healing for Māori.

From 1925 to 1968, Māori in  Pukekohe endured the worst type of racism when most barbers refused to cut Māori hair, and there was segregation at cinemas and bars.

“There had been a book that was put out by Robert Bartholomew about ‘No Maori Allowed’. It documented racism in Pukekohe and that started the conversation,” Kouratoras says.

“This wall is my gift to the town, with the kaupapa of healing for Māori to acknowledge past histories and a new way forward.”

The imagery on the mural is modern and contemporary and depicts whakapapa, Te Ataarangi rods, to represent te reo Māori, and prominent Tainui figures Te Puea Hērangi and Tāwhiao Te Wherowhero.

“The emphasis on that is to have real strong male and female energy in the work,” he explains.

Mātauranga Māori

“The ideas that have gone into this imagery have all come from mātauranga Māori. I haven’t done it in a style that’s kowhaiwhai patterns or typical tā moko style.”

“The essence of these images have come from an idea of learning, inclusiveness and whanaungatanga. Te Ao Māori has a lot to over the town of Pukekohe if they just look a little deeper.”

Kouratoras normally paints on a canvas and his work is sold all over the world. He says creating a work of this large scale has been a good challenge.

“From working on small prints and paintings and moving into this scale you have to have a bigger brush. What I like about working on this scale is that it’s very physical and demands working on your tinana and you’ve got to get into it.”