Mythical Creatures to Live at Opera House Lane

29 April 2011

Dragons and taniwha, as well as bears and sharks, are moving into Opera House Lane.

At least 20 young people are right now buffing, undercoating and preparing the lane before they take to the fresh canvas with their stencils and paints over the weekend.

Led by the Boys and Girls Institute (BGI), this is the start of a number of projects Wellington City Council wants to undertake in Opera House Lane to improve people's sense of safety.

The Council's Social Portfolio Leader, Councillor Stephanie Cook, says the project came about through the Council-led Ethnic and Pacific forums that took place last year.

"There was an overwhelming call for greater visibility of ethnic and Pacific communities in the city's public art. And when Opera House Lane was identified as an area that needed to be cleaned up in time for the Rugby World Cup 2011, local young people leapt at the chance to create something new for the lane. It's going to look great," says Cr Cook.

BGI youth worker Rod Baxter has been working with a large group of young people over the last few weeks to plan the collaborative artwork. He has long been interested in urban and street art, and was the perfect choice to lead the project. The primary artist - Thijs de Koning (aka Yelz) - is also well-respected in the street art scene, and has worked alongside Rod and the other participants to bring the design together.

Rod says the mural includes the journey of Pacific people to Aotearoa, as well as the people who have populated the land since.

"The animals that you see on the mural - the bear, the shark and dragons - all signify the four elements Pacific people battled all those years ago to get here (earth, fire, wind and water). We've also got Maui hauling Wellington up out of the sea and, as we approach Matariki, we felt it was a good idea to represent the stars among the artwork," says Rod.

Young people from all sorts of cultural backgrounds - European, Pakeha, South American, Pacific Islander, Māori and Asian - will get the chance to make their mark on the lane.

The Council's Arts and Culture Portfolio Leader, Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer says the mural will go a long way to rejuvenate the tired old lane.

"And by all accounts, it will be a great addition to a large number of murals in Wellington," says Cr Ahipene-Mercer. "Tournament Parking - the guys who own the building - have been immensely supportive of it, and we expect we'll encounter a similar level of enthusiasm from other building owners in the city.

"This is just one of a number of public art projects that we have under way around at the city at the moment - work is also about to take place at Te Aro Pā and also Te Aro Park. And we're also having a look at Luke's Lane," says Cr Ahipene-Mercer.