News | 27 July 2022

New face for Newtown mural

A stunning new artwork has been created by artist Liana Leiataua, in collaboration with the local community, for the Newtown Library/Smart Newtown building in Newtown.

Painted pillars.

The new mural replaces the original artwork, which was originally installed to welcome people into the Newtown Library and Smart Newtown in 1991.  

Wellington City Council invited Liana Leiataua, who also designed the original mural, to participate in the co-design of the mural upgrade. 

Leiataua is a Samoan Scottish artist born in Aotearoa New Zealand. She describes her work as 'Siapo Aotearoa', a hybrid of cultures combining into a new art form.  

Siapo, also known as tapa, is one of the oldest Samoan cultural art forms.

Group of children performing.
Tamariki from Newtown School Ngāti Kotahitanga immersion whānau performed a waiata to support each speaker at the blessing. The ceiling artwork above them depicts Te Wheke a Muturangi, the Octopus. According to Te Atiawa whakapapa, Kupe discovered Aotearoa after chasing Te Wheke across the ocean to our shores.

Two new elements have been added to the original pillars and banners, including a circular design on the ceiling and one outside the entrance of the flats. 

The updated mural theme features Te Wheke a Muturangi, the Octopus, an important figure in Te Atiawa migration stories, and a central element in the Māori health model developed by Dr Rose Pere (Tūhoe, Ngāti Ruapani and Ngāti Kahungunu), a revered Māori leader renowned within academia and te ao Māori for her spiritual teachings and ancient wisdom. 

 The commission provided an opportunity to look back and forward to the future, ‘Ka Mua Ka Muri’, says Leiataua.

"It is a piece that depicts the journey of a vibrant community made up of many cultures that call Newtown home. It has been over twenty years since I first painted the original mural and through that time technology has developed.

"The final design has been created into a digital format in a collaboration with fellow artist, Ernest Sami. This medium stretches the understanding of traditional Samoan Siapo as being only produced from organic origins. I wanted to show also in this Siapo a narrative of now, celebrating the past, and the journey toward the future of infinite wisdom'.”

The new concept was encapsulated by Dr Rose Pere in the book ‘Te Wheke: A Celebration of Infinite Wisdom’.  

Group of people smiling at the camera.
Artist Liana Leiataua with whānau and friends, alongside Peter Jackson (Te Atiawa) on the far right, from the Wellington Tenths Trust who led the blessing alongside Liana’s mural, Te Wheke.

Leiataua learned of Dr Pere’s passing around the same time the concept was being formed. As the mural completion fell near the date of Dr Pere’s birthday, 25 July 1937, significantly, the blessing of the work was held on the same day this year to acknowledge Rose Pere’s generous gift. 

The mural was commissioned as part of the upgrade of Newtown’s cluster of community facilities.  

The team at Newtown Community and Cultural Centre used a co-design process that encouraged the community to participate in the design process.

Eryn Gribble, Kaiwhakahaere/Coordinator of the Newtown Community and Cultural Centre says this work is an exciting addition for the community.

"This new mural will grace our entranceway, revitalising and revamping the space. Liana has designed a stunning series of pieces with input from the Omārōrō Newtown community, which share a Pasifika and Māori worldview. It also honours the previous mural, which was in its place."

Network Newtown features a large classroom used by community groups and organisations to deliver education programmes and is home to Smart Newtown, a community computing hub providing free internet access and computer training for those who may not have access otherwise.  

There are Council housing units above Network Newtown/Smart Newtown.  

The artwork at the entrance of Newtown Library/Smart Newtown will be in place for the next five years, complementing the community spaces and the surrounding energy of the Newtown shopping centre. 

Read more about the co-design process and facilities that are in the process of being upgraded on the Newtown Community website