Mr G honours respected Maori leader

Mr G with the new mural of Awanuiārangi Black.

Tauranga artist Graham Hoete, aka Mr G, spent this festive season to honouring a highly respected Tauranga iwi leader and educator over one of his already-complete city canvasses.

Painting over the top of a mural of his father, done two years ago at Tauranga’s inaugural street art festival in 2015, Mr G has depicted Awanuiārangi Black.

The work was completed as part of the 2017 Street Prints Mauao festival, Mr G – who specialises in photorealism – was one of 18 street artists to paint during four days with the theme “It’s people, it’s people, it’s people”.

“The image of my father was quite faded,” says Graham. “It’s been up for two years now and I’d prefer to paint over it before it becomes more faded. My dad knows it’s a practical thing.”

Awanuiārangi Black passed away at the age of 48 on November 30, 2016. Also known as Te Awanui, Awanui or Awa, Mr G has depicted him doing an intense haka, with the Pukehinahina flag unfurled behind him.

Born in 1968, Awanuiārangi was affiliated to Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, and Ngāti Raukawa ki Otaki. He was named for Te Awanui (Tauranga Harbour) and dedicated his life to the region.

“The theme of this year’s Street Prints Mauao was all about people, and I wanted to honour someone who had a heart for people,” says Graham. “Teawanui came to mind. I approached his wife and children and they gave me their full consent and endorsement.”

Awanuiārangi co-wrote the haka for the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Gate Pā at Pukehinahina, ‘Te Peruperu a Pukehinahina’. The haka describes the lead up to the battle itself, the code of conduct and acknowledges some of the leading figures. It then talks about the confiscations and hope for the future.

“Te Awanui was the main driving force in pushing the commemorations,” says Graham. “I wanted to portray him doing a haka, it’s really strong, and I think it carries a unique dynamic that is unique to Māori as well.”

Awanuiārangi was a strong advocate for the revitalization of the Māori language and customs. At the time of his death he was a Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor who strove for Māori to have a voice within that forum.

At the end of the festival Mr G hosted the Street Print Mauao festival’s national and international artists overnight at his family home on Motiti Island.

“They had a ball man, all of them just on a major high. I was just trying to give them that authentic Kiwi experience. We put down a hangi, took them out diving for kinas and paua and all that.”

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