News | 18 June 2024
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Drawing the stories of Matariki Puanga

Artist Kohe Webster (Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga), lives a double life – he works within the Council’s Mataaho Aronui team by day, and then turns into an illustrator by night. He designed the latest, and last, cover of Our Wellington – Tō Tātou Pōneke.

A man in a blue shirt with a cap standing infront of the harbour.

While Kohe has had a range of jobs in his career, art has been a consistent passion throughout his life, he explains. 

“I don’t have any formal training and joined the Air Force instead of going to university, so I’ve always learnt about art in the background. I have been scribbling and drawing for a really long time now and still aim to do more with design in the future.

“I have always just been inspired by other artists, and they’ve helped me develop my own trademark designs. I really enjoy pixel art, which I create digitally.”

Kohe has been at the Council for 16 years now, starting his journey working across our community pools, before landing in his role as Totoru a-whare, a coordinator in the Pare Māori team of Mataaho Aronui, Wellington City Council's strategic Māori partnership team. His talent and eye for drawing is a skill noticed by the Council’s Creative and Brand team, who approached him to create on artwork for various projects.

His most recent work was for the Matariki Our Wellington magazine cover, which depicts Puanga, followed by Matariki atop Taranaki Mounga, encircled by Rongomātane, Maru, Tāne Mahuta, and Tangaroa. This represents our gratitude and connection with nature.

To come up with this concept, Kohe turned to his team to learn more about their Matariki Puanga traditions. 

“I work with a diverse group of people and when this opportunity came up, I wanted to pull from the resources and experiences they had. We have different traditions and in Ngāti Toa, the emphasis is more on Matariki.

“I spent an entire weekend researching Matariki Puanga because I really wanted to get an outsider’s perspective and to acknowledge the narrative element of the design. Māori artwork often tells stories through the pattern work so I wanted to nail that down.”

Our Wellington cover art.
Puanga, followed by Matariki atop Taranaki Mounga, encircled by Rongomātane, Maru (above), Tāne Mahuta, and Tangaroa (below).

Kohe landed on this artwork after playing around with different elements and explains how he focused on the natural element of Matariki Puanga.

“With Matariki, the different stars represent different parts of nature, but when I was researching about Puanga I learnt more about the hautapu ceremony, which is about cooking a feed and giving an offering to the stars through the steam and acknowledging the atua (deities). 

“The deities are seen in the artwork with Rongomātane and Maru above. Rongomātane is the atua of agriculture – cultivated kai, but interestingly Maru has various roles depending on where you are from in Aotearoa," Kohe explains.

"In the Taranaki tradition, Maru is the atua of wai māori (fresh water and fresh water kai), but also a primary atua of the Aotea waka tribes. Tāne Mahuta as we know is the atua of the birds and forest, and Tangaroa is the god responsible for the oceans. All of these atua are crucial in the survival of people and so we give thanks and an offering to the atua.”

Kohe believes that Matariki is a chance to share the stories of different iwis across Aotearoa.

“To me, what makes Matariki and Puanga so special is not only the fact that these are our own, home-grown traditions but as Aotearoa slowly reclaims its traditions, we begin to see regional and iwi-specific traditions coming through. Different ways of telling our stories that really show the diversity of beliefs and perspectives of Māori in Aotearoa.”

Kohe feels proud to have this artwork as the last cover for the Our Wellington magazine and is excited to continue his journey developing his art when he has the time. 
As a father to 4 kids, a full-time job and his design work on the side, he is kept fairly busy! 

“At the moment I work at night, but I have to be able to book my own iPad from my kids! I will always make the time I need to be creative when I can."

Pick up a copy of Our Wellington – Tō Tātou Pōneke from the following Wellington City Council sites: Te Awe Library, Arapaki Service Centre, Waitohi Community Hub, Tawa Library, Newtown Library, Ākau Tangi Sports Centre, Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre, and the Wellington I-SITE on Wakefield Street.

Check out the online PDF and text-only version (which may be compatible with some screen readers) on the Our Wellington webpage.