Māori ancestor-inspired mural uses paint that cleans the air around it

By Jessica Tyson

Urban artists Janine and Charles Williams of The Most Dedicated crew have painted a new mural in central Auckland inspired by the Māori ancestor Hape.

It’s part of a global campaign called Converse City Forests. Instead of using traditional spray paint, they used an innovative paint that cleans the air and is the equivalent of planting 182 trees.

Janine, of Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara and Ngāti Pāoa, says the art piece was inspired by the legend of Hape and connects the essence of staying true to yourself, embodying your roots and breaking down barriers.

“This mural is located quite closely to Karangahape Road and that connection with Hape and his personal journey of overcoming physical and emotional discrimination and difficulties in his journey here to Aotearoa. We drew from that and used that strength.”

Te Karanga / Photo source: Converse

Janine says the title of the mural, Te Karanga or The Call, resembles the crying out of a person “in who they are and their identity. We’ve used a large tūī because of its dual voice box and its unique identity in terms of its sound,” she says.

Converse collaborated with Janine and Charles to paint the mural using a photocatalytic paint by Graphenstone, which uses sunlight to reduce noxious air pollutants, purifying the surrounding air.

Charles, of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tūhoe and Ngāpuhi, says, “We are used to using your normal house paint and then all of a sudden we’ve got this super eco scientific paint, which was actually quite unusual.”

He says the paint had a matte finish and was really thick “but it was really cool. To use a paint that is absorbing all these nasty gases and then helping out the ecosystem is actually quite crazy.”

The Auckland mural, located on Karaka Street rises three stories and measure 195 square meters.

Janine says, “This mural I guess symbolises this point in time where art meets that message and so just to be a part of that and to be here in Tāmaki is a beautiful progression in the arts.”

Known for their thought-provoking art installations around urban Aotearoa, Janine and Charles use their creativity to inspire and tell the stories of their ancestors and heritage. Their mission is to empower New Zealanders and encourage the rangatahi to express themselves through art in an innovative and contemporary way that fights the norm.

“We take these indigenous stories of persistence and identity as tāonga or precious gifts of knowledge that we too have the ability to impact the future in a positive way we remember that our story, our lives are as important as the next and to value life collectively,” Charles and Janine say.