A Mr G portrait of Ta Apirana Ngata, Sir Edmund Hillary and Kate Sheppard in Palmerston North. Photo / Mr G
As challenges go there is not one that comes much bigger than painting a portrait of one of Māoridom's most famous filmmakers, but that is the goal for renowned Tauranga artist 'Mr G' and the portrait of Merata Mita.
Mr G (Graham Hoete) is painting the giant portrait to celebrate the Aronui Indigenous Festival, which kicks off in Rotorua, and for Mr G the opportunity is a great honour, saying the sheer size of the project represents the contribution Mita made during her life.
"Tūpuna inspire through their images. Portraits represent stories and life and are not just pretty images, they represent so much more."
"It's going to be a special piece this one."
Merata Mita was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. She was heavily involved in Māori film-making, including co-directing Bastion Point: Day 507, where along with her co-directors Leon Narbey and her then partner Gerd Pohlmann, she captured the iconic images of police removing protestors from Takaparawhau in 1978.
Mr G says the project is far from just a physical journey, more than that it is a spiritual one.
"My wife and I went out to the urupā at Pukehina where Merata lays just to do a mihi and a karakia, hīmene before we start."
"It's cool, you know, I hono to her on her Ngāi Te Rangi side from Te Whānau a Tauwhao. I have a Mōtītī and Matakana Island connect there."
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The meeting of creative natives
Originally, planned for earlier in the year, the 11-day event has been moved due to Covid-19. The Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival is a celebration of indigenous art and culture and includes the launch of the Te Arawa performing arts collective, Te Whare Tapere o Te Arawa.
"It's about celebrating indigenous creativity, indigenous voices, stories and expression. It's really about indigenous storytelling bro."
"Ko te ngako o tēnei kaupapa, ko te pāorooro o ngā iwi taketake huri noa i te motu, huri noa i te ao. It's the echoes of our tūpuna which still reverberate today."
The mammoth task of painting the giant portrait of Merata Mita will begin on Wednesday and should take ten days to complete.