Waimapihi The story behind Garrett Street’s new mural
The buried stream Waimapihi tracks underground from Aro Valley, through Garrett Street, and out to the Wellington Harbour. Named after Mapihi, a rangatira who used to bathe in the awa, the historical significance of the site is honoured through the new mural by artist Izzy Joy.
Can you tell us the story behind the mural?
I was approached by Ra Vincent who has done some work with Te Āti Awa — that’s one of the local Mana Whenua iwi. He asked if I’d be interested to do a mural. He had sort of a rough idea sketched out of the kind of things that he wanted on it.
There’s a stream called Waimapihi that runs underneath the mural. It’s named after Mapihi, the rangatira of Kāti Māmoe, Ngāi Tara, and other iwi who would come through on their migration south from the east and west coast, early colonial times.
The awa is named after her because that’s where she used to bathe. I’m bringing up the story of the buried stream above it so that you can see it’s a historical site.
I’ve painted Mapihi as a pou whenua, a wooden carved marker that is placed around significant sites and the edges of tribal territories — that’s a marker for the buried awa.
On either side of her you see the kowhaiwhai, which is a puhoro design, which is used to represent swiftness and movement.
The awa flowing across the settlement shows how tangata whenua are also part of this ecosystem, so there’s the whare on the right-hand side.
And then there’s the poutama design, which represents the heke or migrations of the iwi that came to and through this area, Te Ātiawa ki Taranaki.
The rātā is all over the mural as a nod to pre-colonial times when this area was known as Crimson Hills, because there was so much rātā that grew everywhere. And now there are efforts to regrow those trees.
What made you feel connected to this work?
For me, a lot of my personal work is about mana wāhine and kaitiakitanga, preserving te taiao.
I like to mix those principles together, so this is very much sort of in that vein. I have a connection to Mapihi through Kāti Māmoe, so when I was approached for this Kaupapa I was like, yes, this is tika, this is my jam!
There was a couple of months planning and drafting, and then the painting itself took about three weeks and it’s my largest scale project so far. I reached really deep with this.