Completed Mount Cook Mural Makes History

31 March 2014

A once bare stone wall on Hopper Street in central Wellington is now making history – literally.

Sheyne Tuffery's Hopper St mural with his Pacific Island warrior and painted stacked half coconuts rising like a futuristic utopian city on a motif of bricks.

Sheyne Tuffery's completed Mount Cook mural on Hopper Street

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Well-known local artist and Mount Cook resident Sheyne Tuffery has managed to design and paint the suburb’s past, with a futuristic twist, over the 65-metre-long retaining wall at the corner of Hopper and Hanky streets.

Tuffery has taken the history of Mount Cook using the very stones this wall is made from, possibly quarried from a local river bed, and created a mural that celebrates the past. It features representations of the area’s cultural history and Tuffery’s own interpretation of the Pacific Islands and the ‘new’ Pacific of New Zealand.

Many of the images appear in Tuffery’s other works, such as the Pacific Island warrior, representing his connection to the Pacific and his ancestors. Alongside these images, he has painted stacked half coconuts rising like a futuristic utopian city or a modern take on the Pacific fale. A giant tuatara – representing New Zealand’s oldest resident – harks back to a time before people inhabited the land.

Tuffery spent months researching Mount Cook’s heritage for this project and knows it well. He acknowledges the original long-abandoned pā at Pukeahu that stood on the old Dominion Museum site, now the main building on Massey University’s campus, which is shown as the traditional entrance to a marae.

A Massey Cossack on horseback appears at one end of the mural as a reference to the Police barracks that hosted Massey’s Cossacks and their horses, from the days of the 1913 union riots on Wellington’s waterfront.

Sheyne says that working on the street and constructing an artwork of that size was an exhilarating experience. “That little corner of town is a fascinating cross section of people, and the local community really liked what I was achieving. I loved how cars and skate boarders could get really close to the mural. Can’t wait to do another one"

The Council’s Arts Programmes Advisor, Katie Taylor-Duke, says the mural represents the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Mt Cook in a playful and accessible way. “It will be interesting to see if it becomes known as the ‘tuatara’ or the ‘Cossack’ mural as Wellingtonians adopt this wonderful new public art work.”

Funded through the Council’s Public Art Fund, Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer says the Hopper Street wall is a perfect canvas for an artist such as Sheyne Tuffery. “We’re proud to see this ambitious work go on show and help to tell Wellington’s stories through cultural history. The mural will also help to reduce tagging in the area.”

The mural will be officially opened at 10.30am on Thursday 3 April near the main entrance to Massey University at 1 Wallace Street. You are welcome to join Sheyne, and the Massey students who helped him, for morning tea.