Newlands' Big-name Artist Gets to Work on Home Turf

13 November 2009

The Newlands Community Centre needed a mural on its large exterior walls, and none other than Newlands' Michel Tuffery, MNZM, came up with a winning solution.

Together with students from Newlands College and the wider northern suburbs and local graf artist Pete Sole, Michel is now working on getting the mural completed in time for its blessing on 4 December.

Michel says he first thought about doing a mural on the newly-opened community centre at the end of last year. "I got talking to the then-coordinator of the centre, and after applying to the Council's Public Art Panel, we got going on quite a large-scale consultation with the Newlands community.

"Having grown up there, I know every nook and cranny of the place, as well as having a good idea of all the kinds of people that make up the Newlands community - the community has roots going back to 42 different countries. I wanted to simultaneously incorporate every street name and country of origin in the mural, and I think we've managed to come up with something that almost represents the lot," says Michel.

While the Newlands community brought Michel international stamps for the artwork, the younger generation made sure their penchant for graf-art and graffiti would be part of the wider picture as well.

"What's resulted is a cross-cultural, inter-generational artwork by the community for the community. While I've orchestrated the project and worked on the design, I truly see this as something the entire population of Newlands can own as collaborative creators," says Michel.

"It's been a joy working with some of the younger folk from Newlands College as well - I've been really heartened by the talent and enthusiasm they've put towards it."

The Council's Arts Portfolio Leader, Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, says the fact that Michel was born and bred in Newlands strengthens the sense of community ownership.

"The mural traces the development of Newlands, and I can think of no better person than someone who remembers the suburb from its infancy. Michel is also a big name in the art world, both nationally and internationally. I think it's a wonderful project from start to finish," says Cr Ahipene-Mercer.

Michel Tuffery attended Newlands College in the 1980s before studying fine arts in Dunedin and Hawaii. He's had countless group and solo exhibitions and held workshops worldwide and won numerous awards for his work.

Michel is a multi-disciplinary artist. His interest in the history of Polynesia and the colonial encounters of its people have been a rich source of inspiration for his drawings, prints, paintings, sculptures, live performance art and time-based installations.