Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans

By   Pip   -  March 15 / 2022

Take a walk and discover the beauty that are the Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans murals.

Napier’s CBD is home to many of the murals from the 2016 and 2017 festivals, – you can find where they are here.

Artist and Napier resident Cinzah Merkens co-produced Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans Festival, the largest international mural painting festival to ever come to this country. 

“The Sea Walls global mural festival combines art and activism (ARTivism) to promote and educate the community about environmental issues related to our oceans. From shark finning, over fishing, ocean acidification, plastic pollution, agricultural and industrial run off, and highlighting endangered marine species.

Cinzah says Napier was the perfect place for such a large-scale project.  “Napier is the perfect scale, most of the murals are in walking distance and all are accessible by bike. There is already a strong artistic community here and our Council is really supportive of innovative ideas.”

Cinzah’s choices

Cinzah painted the National Aquarium of New Zealand mural, a collaborative mural with good friend, Canadian artist Jason Botkin.  He’s got a couple of personal favourites that if you have time, seek out.

James Bullough, Quest Hotel.

I’d say the people choice award for 2017 would have to go to artist James Bullough, he came over from Berlin and painted on the back of the Quest hotel, visible from Station Street. 

His mural is a contemporary take on the local Maori story of Pania and the reef, as Pania descends to her home, the reef, she begins to fragment, her reef has been destroyed by coral bleaching due to ocean acidification.  We linked James up with the Tareha family who whakapapa directly to Pania so he had some amazing personal insight into the story, family history and permission to paint such an iconic wahine (woman).

Charles and Janine Williams, Port of Napier.

A short stroll along Marine Parade is another personal favourite.  Auckland based artists Charles and Janine Williams painted a mural titled ‘Tautoko’ and their chosen topic was endangered native birds, painting the Bar tailed Godwit, which travels 11,000km from Alaska to New Zealand.  

The inspiration for their mural came from the naming of Napier or Ahuriri.  Chief Tu Ahuriri cut a channel into the lagoon space at Ahuriri because the Westshore entrance had become blocked, threatening cultivations surrounding the Whanga and the fishing villages on the islands and in the lagoon.  The rivers were continually feeding freshwater into the area and he created change through his courage and understanding of the greater good of his people. 

What is the most important thing in the world? “He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.  It is the people, it is the people, it is the people” – reads the wording scribed on Charles and Janine’s mural.

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