A new LGBTTQIA+ mural by artist Pounamu Wharekawa (Ngāi te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui) is brightening up Centre Place Shopping Centre in Hamilton’s city centre.
The mural, titled ‘A Joyful Meeting’, is a celebration of and for rainbow communities in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton, and is a joint project by Centre Place and Wintec’s Āniwaniwa Alliance.
Wharekawa, who is completing their third and final year of a Bachelor of Contemporary Art at Wintec School of Media Arts, says the inspiration behind the mural is “the comfort [they] find in the queer community. I just wanted to put across the vibes of supporting and being supported, in all aspects of your identity.”
“Growing up in a small town I didn’t really have a lot of LGBTTQIA+ people in my circle, so when I moved to Kirikiriroa and kind of just fell into a group of queer people it was the beginning of the most fulfilling period of my life so far,” the artist says.
The most important message Wharekawa wanted to communicate was the “humanity of the queer community”, which is represented through figures and portraits in a loving, supportive awhi (embrace).
Wharekawa identifies as takatāpui, a te reo Māori term that translates to ‘intimate companion of the same sex’ buthas been reclaimed by many Māori who identify with diverse sexes, genders, orientations and sexualities.
“For me, my Māoritanga is present and relevant to all aspects of my identity so it only makes sense that my queerness is included in that- which is why I identify as takatāpui,” says Wharekawa.
“As someone who’s been doing the whole ‘reconnect to my roots’ type thing over the past couple of years, when I came across the term takatāpui, I was like ‘ohhhhh, that’s me’ — finally something that feels like it fits.”
Centre Place has recently become a member of the Safe Space Alliance, an LGBTTQIA+ led non-profit organisation that aims to help people identify and create safe spaces for rainbow communities around the world.
With an idea to commemorate this achievement with a mural, Centre Place Centre Manager, Maureen Pearce, reached out to Julie Ashby, Team Manager at the School of Media Arts. Ashby then connected with the newly-formed Āniwaniwa Alliance who were also looking at opportunities to celebrate their formation as the first rainbow support group at Wintec, and to spread their message out to the local community.
Samantha Symons, co-chair of the Āniwaniwa Alliance, says “this mural really is a tāonga to not only our Wintec kaimahi (staff) and tauira (students) in the rainbow community, but to everyone who sees it.”
“The mural so beautifully represents our LGBTTQIA+ whānau and it is really special to us. We’re so thrilled with this collaboration,” she adds.
Maureen Pearce is excited about the vibrancy and the mural brings to Centre Place.
“Creating vibrant spaces that bring people together and where they feel they belong is key to what we do at Centre Place”, she says Pearce. “It is a long-held value of our joint owners Kiwi Property Group and Tainui Group Holdings.”
“We’re excited to team-up with Pounamu and Wintec’s Āniwaniwa Alliance to celebrate the LGBTTQIA+ community, offering them a space to freely express themselves. This mural is a beautiful piece of art that celebrates diversity and inclusion and presents a view of a future where everyone is accepted for who they are.”
The mammoth task of painting the mural occurred over a few days last week, with Wharekawa and two other Wintec School of Media Arts students Zarna Torpey and Mitchell Jellyman assisting with the painting.
“I think the hardest thing about murals is how physically demanding they are”, says Wharekawa.
“A lot of my other work is just me sitting at a desk or standing at an easel, which is a far cry from climbing up and down scaffolding for hours at a time! I’m just super glad that I’ve had a couple of e hoas (friends) who were in my class who have been helping me out and helping speed things up,” they say.
‘A Joyful Meeting’ is not the only mural by Wharekawa in Hamilton — they recently completed a mural down London Street for the annual Boon Street Art Festival.
Wharekawa has also been freelancing, and people can purchase prints and other artworks from their popular Instagram page.
The mural was completed on Thursday 9 December, and there was a formal unveiling on the morning of Friday 10 December, attended by Mayor Paula Southgate, representatives from Tainui Group Holdings, Centre Place and Wintec. The unveiling was officiated by Wintec Kaumātua, Tame Pokaia.