The iwi artist ‘dazzling’ downtown Tāmaki Makaurau

Pāora Puru's Te Kāhui o Matariki light display in downtown Tāmaki Makaurau. Photo / Jason Mann

A dazzling Matariki light display created by mana whenua artist Pāora Puru (Ngāti Te Ata Waiohua) is lighting up downtown Tāmaki Makaurau. Soon, another of his creations will tell a second “beautiful Māori story” in lights.

The custom light sequence across the Deloitte building at One Queen Street - home to the luxury InterContinental hotel and law firm Bell Gully - depicts the star constellation Te Kāhui o Matariki.

Puru created the sequence for all four sides of the building, alongside owner Precinct Properties - a “massive” task for the emerging artist working across a new medium.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity. I am an artist but I have never done anything like this before, especially because it’s quite technical and to this scale too.

“I had to work with a lighting specialist to understand how the lights work, where they were fixed in the building, how we could programme the lighting so that they could fade off and on to really curate a story.”

The project has been a major undertaking involving not just the current display but also a second sequence that will play once Matariki is over.

“Well over a year, we’ve been working on this piece.

“Precinct Properties was keen to use the lights as a way to educate people, acknowledge and celebrate Matariki, so asked if I was interested in curating a story for the building that tells our story of Matariki and what that means to everyone.

“This sequence we came up with, I’ve named it Te Kāhui o Matariki, the constellation of Matariki.”

Pāora Puru's Te Kāhui o Matariki light display in downtown Tāmaki Makaurau.

Puru says Matariki is a special time of “reflection, recovery, gratitude and balance” and a reminder to look skyward.

“It’s a really important time to nourish and nurture our whānau, our families, our relationships and own health and wellbeing.”

With the busyness of life, it is easy to “close our eyes to the wonder of the stars in the universe,” he says.

“The rising of Matariki reminds us to look up and open them again to the potential of our inner humaneness to realign ourselves with nature.”

Volcanoes display

The display, which was switched on last weekend and launched this week, will play for the month of Matariki and then be followed by a fresh lighting creation.

“There’s actually two sequences, two stories.”

Puru originally pitched a different concept not specific to Matariki.

“The first story was actually around the formation and creation story of the volcanoes of Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland.

“When [Matariki] month is over, [the lighting display] it’ll go into the formations of the volcanoes, which is known as Ngā Huinga o Mataaho, the gathered volcanoes of Mataaho. It tells the story of how the volcanoes of Tāmaki were created and formed.”

Seeing Māori art take pride of place in Aotearoa’s largest city is truly inspiring, says Puru.

“Especially at that scale and right in the CBD [central business district], right on the waterfront and on a huge commercial building like that.

“This is a really beautiful and unique way to tell one of our beautiful Māori stories of Aotearoa, New Zealand.”

A new generation of iwi artists

Pāora Puru. Photo / Supplied

Puru says art has given him a way to help increase the visibility of his iwi and grow its next generation of artists.

“We get all these opportunities that come via both the public and private sectors to integrate cultural design within the landscape and built environment.

“What I was noticing with our iwi was that we didn’t really have any artists that I knew. I just thought, man, we’re losing out on these opportunities and we really want to express ourselves in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland.

“So I saw that as an opportunity for me to take the pen back up again and get back into doing arts, and then at the same time grow the next generation of our own iwi artists to bring them in and enable them in projects too.

“We have our own arts collective within our iwi now to give them opportunities to express themselves creatively.”

Te Kāhui o Matariki display at One Queen Street will run until Monday, 15 July. The lights are visible from 5pm to 11pm and 5am to 7am daily. The display compliments the custom orange and blue lighting sequence of the nearby PwC Tower which represents a new dawn.