National | Art

Identity through art: Māori youth expressing who they are through murals

A group of rangatahi Māori in Tunatahi (Dargaville) are participating in a nationwide mural campaign called Tūmanako – Hope.

The initiative, led by prolific Māori visual artist Mr G (Ngaiterangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Awa), uses murals to communicate messages of hope to rangatahi.

“Collaboration with mana whenua, kaumātua and rangatahi is the key to help weave those messages into the art,” Mr G says.

“I prefer to stay in the background of the rangatahi but steer them to protect and preserve the mana of the kōrero and kaupapa that they come up with. Really, I let their creative thoughts fly but just guide them from the background,” he says.

Traditional history and local Māori stories are ways of engaging rangatahi into learning their identity and connection to their community.

Mr G leads the way for rangatahi wanting to make their marks in the art space.

Dargaville deities

Local community rangatahi initiative Rangatahi Ora has partnered with Mr G to create a mural in Selwyn Park, Dargaville, using depictions of local Māori deities, maunga and awa within the area. The aim is to depict and connect those stories to the rangatahi, hoping they find relevance and identify themselves through the art.

Rangatahi Ora co-founder Shaquille Shortland says this project also gives rangatahi the chance to see their thoughts visually.

“The kids have had time with their kaumātua, listening to all the local stories about their land, where they come from and who they are and I think that being able to depict those kōrero through having fun helps them to hold fast to those special stories, that way they can think back and say that they are descendants of those kōrero.”

The goal for these youth mentors is for those rangatahi to live with hope, and understand the world they live in.