WAITUHI Matariki public art series

WAITUHI is an annual series of public art projects timed to coincide with Matariki.

The aim of WAITUHI is to take the festivities and kaupapa of Matariki to a wider audience beyond the traditional arts spaces of the galleries, museums and theatres, to enliven and activate public space with new artwork that acknowledges Māori culture and heritage in the city.

WAITUHI flags by Rawiri Barriball

WAITUHI Flags by Rawiri Barriball

Designed by Rawiri Barriball, this year’s WAITUHI flags respond directly to the environment and proximity of Whairepo Lagoon. Rawiri’s work depicts the gathering of the whai repo, he huihuinga and represents whanau and the teachings of our Kaitiaki.  

Rawiri (Te Ati Awa, Te Rarawa and Ngati Raukawa) lives in Otaki and is a retired naval officer of 22 years, and the single guardian to his three nieces and son.

The flags were raised on Friday 2 July and marked the beginning of Matariki ki Pōneke. They are the seventh series of flags that have been raised at Whairepo Lagoon as part of WAITUHI, a Matariki public art series, and will remain in place until September 2021.

Section of Once upon a night time, including green and red silhouette of a woman and a Maori carving, dark skinned and light skinned hands in what could be a handshake, a spaceship with a beam.
WAITUHI billboard banner (section), Once upon a (night) time by Wayne Youle

WAITUHI billboard banner, Once upon a (night) time by Wayne Youle

Once upon a (night) time is a large billboard banner artwork by Wayne Youle, commissioned for WAITUHI. This work spans a 30 metre frame on Jervois Quay under the City to Sea Bridge. It comprises 21 panels that take the viewer on a journey through Wayne Youle’s practice that is part autobiographical, part retrospective and full mihi to Youle’s home town, Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

Once upon a (night) time is deeply personal and rich in symbolism. Youle utilises bold, design-based elements referencing but subverting the billboard banner as an advertising format, and drawing on the work of well-known Aotearoa artists from Colin McCahon to Arnold Manaaki Wilson and Rita Angus to enhance his story and emphasise connection to place. 

Youle created this work while in lock down during March and April 2020, having just returned from the Sydney Biennale. What was going to be a two-week period of isolation swiftly turned into almost two-months of isolation.  Some of the panels reference the impact of this moment in time, from the effect on our environment to the importance of whanau and nurturers in our communities.

The starting point for Once upon a (night) time is an image of the night sky, a quiet image depicting the nine most visible stars that make up the Matariki star cluster above a waka, symbolising early ocean travel, navigation and the journey that Youle was about to embark on to make this work.

From here the work fans out like a deck of cards, an extended concertina of bold, curious images celebrating all that is important to Youle – whānau, genealogy, wahine, discovery, cross-cultural collaboration, history, education, art, design, storytelling and the importance of thinking.  The thread that connects each panel is Pōneke – its hills, the sea, people, diversity, and of course its creativity.

The final panel is a self-portrait.  Youle’s story and the people who got him where he is today are contained on the record, each white line marking-out a different story.  The record is carried on the shoulders of Rodin’s The Thinker – this sculpture symbolising Youle’s creative practice, the act of making of art and how Youle is consumed by it, always thinking about it, about images and storytelling through imagery.  This last image is surrounded by small symbols that speak to Youle’s education at Design School and the career path he chose. The symbols are also reminiscent of the Tupperware shape-ball that Youle and his children played with.  The five point star has been substituted for an eight point star, which is on the United Tribes flag – a flag that Youle believes could supersede our current one.  The skull is a symbol that reappears on and off in Youle’s work and the cross brings the first and last panels together conceptually and aesthetically.

Past projects