First Matariki Street-art Project

24 June 2014

The art of Johnson Witehira is about to make its mark on the Capital again – this time for Matariki Wellington Festival.

Artist Johnson Witehira standing next to one of his artworks on Courtenay Place.

Artist Johnson Witehira


Johnson’s bold work The Land of Tara already features in the Courtenay Place Park light boxes and he’s about to start a new street art project.

With support from the Council, Johnson will bring Waituhi to grace the entrance to Opera House Lane on Wakefield Street.

The lane was chosen as a good site for Waituhi because it has an interesting past, once being part of the shoreline that bordered Te Aro Pā and where iwi gathered kai (food).

Opera House Lane is also prone to graffiti and is being upgraded to make it safer and more accessible. New paving, paint work and an LED lighting display have recently gone in.

This is the first time street art has been part of Matariki in Wellington. Johnson says his mural will reference kaitiakitanga, guardianship and protection as well as the cultural and geographic heritage of this area.

“It’s another chance to bring something Māori into the urban landscape. Often I find myself standing on a Wellington street and I’ll be hard pressed to see anything Māori. Street art is a great way to reach the public and being able to put my art out there means I can bring it to the people.”

Johnson will be working on Waituhi over the next week or so, starting this Saturday (28 June) when the star cluster Matariki – also known as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters – is visible. People are welcome to watch him at work.

There are over 100 Matariki events in the Wellington region during June and July.

Suzanne Tamaki, Events Coordinator for the Council, says the number and variety of events supports a growing desire to acknowledge Aotearoa’s Māori New Year. “The Council is right behind it and we’ve joined forces with groups in the Wellington area to create an incredible programme.”

This week The Fringe Bar in Allen Street launches six days of song, poetry, dance and a navigation of the stars, on until Sunday 29 June. The line-up includes comedian James Nokise, singers PAO Te Manu, Ngāti Porou tane, Lisa Tomlin and Toni Huata.