News | 6 June 2023
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Community-led project culminates in colourful mural

A three-year, community-led project has culminated in a stunning mural that stretches around the surface of a water tank in Karori – effectively making the old concrete structure disappear into its surrounding natural environment.

Mural “Journeying” on a water tank in Montgomery Avenue

The mural “Journeying” by Pōneke artist Theo Arraj is located in Montgomery Avenue, Karori. The Montgomery Ave neighbourhood group, led by resident Debbie Bidlake, connected with the artist last year and worked hard to raise money to support the project.

Funding came from Wellington City Council, the Department of Internal Affairs, Terawhiti Charitable Trust, and several local businesses that sponsored the work.

“Council has been inspired by this project. We’ve witnessed a small community rōpū drive this mural, connect with iwi and bring together big organisations (central and local government) and sectors – arts, urban ecology, education, and recreation – to make it happen. The group took responsibility for their neighbourhood. They initiated a project that speaks to the surrounding environment, and that will bring pleasure to the many people who live in this area or who visit for recreation,” says Council’s Senior Arts Advisor, Katie Taylor-Duke.

The mural, as a community-led project, and with its strong links to our city’s mana whenua narratives and history, aligns strongly with Council’s Aho Tini 2030 Arts, Culture, and Creativity and Tūpiki Ora strategies.

Mural “Journeying” on a water tank in Montgomery Avenue

The mural was initiated to enliven the area, celebrate the wealth of nature and recreation on our city’s back doorstep, and to deter graffiti.

The design was informed by mana whenua representatives, and research behind the design included connecting with Council librarian, Ann Reweti, the Karori Historical Society, local schools, and the Karori Residents’ Association.

“The theme, and name, of the mural – Journeying – honours the history of the area and how it was valued by early Māori. The concept of journeying is also represented in the design through tāwhirimātea (the wind) depicting movement, Kākā – flight, Papatūānuku reflecting the passage of time, and the tuna (eel) – migration,” says Theo.

Project-lead Debbie Bidlake says: “We wanted the mural to convey a sense of place, both past and present. When we walk these hills, we walk in the footsteps of our ancestors who used Te Wharangi ridgeline to journey between the inner harbour and coast and valued the area for gathering food and rongoā. We also wanted the mural to talk about the importance of biodiversity and the interconnection of people and nature.

“Since the reservoir sits above a playground, we wanted the mural to be interactive and to engage our tamariki, hence the hidden flora and fauna motifs. The artist, Theo, nailed the brief. This mural has transformed the area. It now feels vibrant and inviting, the kind of place the community can celebrate and feel proud of. What a gift Theo has given us.”