New mural in Glen Innes creates controversy

A new portrait mural in Glen Innes, Auckland was revealed last week but it has already run into trouble.

it’s a collaboration between mural artist Owen Dippie and respected activist/artist Emily Karaka. It shows Karaka with a list of some of her activities and connections.

In an online post, Ngāti Whātua’s cultural advisor, Joe Pihema claims the mural shows 'blatant' disregard for the mana of Ngāti Pāoa.

"It came about through a friend of mine, Benjamin Work, an artist who worked with me in my big works Toitū, Toiora. He was asked by Owen Dippie who he should paint for Glen Innes and, as far as Benjamin was concerned, 'you got to paint the queen of Glen Innes'," Karaka says.

"I said' I don't think I'm the queen of GI' but he said 'No, this is someone that people in GI will recognise and he came and asked me and I was a bit whakamā (embarrassed) but I thought it was important to have us on a wall. There is no image of Māori on the wall in GI so I thought, yes that's alright."

Te Waiohua the ancestral name

Karaka explains some of the words on the mural, which she added herself, but she now thinks they may be the reason for the disappointing online backlash.

“Te Waiohua is the ancestral name for this area, the tribal group for this area. There is a confederation of tribes all of which I belong to, Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki, Te Kawerau a Maki, Tamaoho, Akitai and Ngāti Te Ata. That's the tight five in Tāmaki, no mistake about that.”

“I think some people are a bit concerned about the fact that we will not let our whakapapa and our history be subsumed by people that came after.”

Karaka’s work is recognised for its expressive intensity, her gritty address of political issues related to Māori land rights and the Treaty of Waitangi and she feels the mural is one way of reinforcing true history within this area.

“Te Kei o te waka o Tainui, that is this area, the ancestral name of this area. The Tainui waka came from Whakakaiwhara, went over to Te Ngaupata, went across to Devonport to Rangitoto, turned and came down this awa then across to … the Manukau Harbour down to Kāwhia.”

Ngāti Pāoa not asked

Karaka is adamant she has the right to display who she represents and where her mural is displayed.

“My cousin, Te Warena Taua, was very vocal in the High Court with regards to whakapapa of Tāmaki Makaurau and you'll actually find that Judge Matthew Palmer was very clear in his ruling that Ngāti Whātua has mana whenua but he didn't say that we others didn't. You can't change history, the old history.”

According to Pihema, Ngāti Pāoa was neither informed nor asked about the mural.

“It's not like I want to tramp on or challenge Emily as she is a relation of mine. Ngāti Pāoa are the people of this area, the whole area and not just a block of shops. We are our own worst enemy and this needs to stop,” says Pihema.