News | 24 November 2017

Civic Square artwork kicks off Wellington’s Art on Walls

A new public artwork being put up near Civic Square will kick off Wellington City Council’s Art on Walls programme, says Mayor Justin Lester.

Johnson Witehira artwork

The artwork, Ngā Kākano: The Seeds by Johnson Witehira, is being installed on the hoardings around Council’s Civic Administration Building (CAB), which has been closed following the November 2016 earthquake.

The artwork is redeveloped at a significantly larger scale with some new visual elements from The Land of Tara, originally commissioned and developed for the Courtenay Place Park light boxes in 2014.

“Wellington has long been known for its murals, and there is an opportunity to be very deliberate about creating a colourful and vibrant city,” says Mayor Lester.

“After last year’s earthquake, Wellington’s walls have started to feature as a bigger part of everyday conversation – which ones stay up, and which ones have to be knocked down.

“Johnson’s artwork on the CAB building is a reminder that a building that is being worked on can still be used as a canvas for beautifying the city, and telling Wellington’s many stories.”

Mayor Lester adds that the Council’s City Arts and Events team, headed by Manager Natasha Petkovic-Jeremic, has been working hard to prepare a programme of art on walls that will be rolled out over the next year, including at well-known sites like the Cable Car terminal.

The installation of the artwork on the CAB hoarding started today (Friday 24 November), and is estimated to take up to ten days (weather dependant). The CAB building is expected to be closed for 2-3 years.

Johnson consulted Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust representatives in the creation of the original artwork, and is proud to be a part of this new project. “I’m excited to be bringing Māori history, art and design into the heart of the city’s civic centre, close to the original shoreline,” he says.

The artwork was developed in conjunction with Taranaki Whānui ki te Upoko o te Ika, and feature graphic representations of tūpuna Māori (Māori ancestors), including the navigator Kupe, and those who came with and after him: Kuramarotini, Toi, Whatonga, Reretua, Hotuwaipara, Tara-ika, Tautoki and Wakanui. Referencing an important Māori whakataukī (proverb), e kore au e ngaro he kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea (I will not be lost, I will not perish, for I am a seed that was sown in Rangiātea), the artwork can be read as a powerful expression of resilience – of whakapapa and of continuity.

The artwork follows on from a unanimous Council commitment earlier in the week to make Te Reo more visible in Wellington.