More than just an owl

Charles Williams with Messenger. Photo: Tracy Hardy.

Charles and Janine Williams have been creating an owl – called ‘ruru' in Maori – on the side of a building in Dive Crescent as part of the Tauranga Paradox Street Art Festival.

'The design is called Messenger,” says Charles. 'It incorporates various elements significant to the area. The ruru is said have appeared as a messenger on many occasions to local iwi.

'Otamataha Pa is along this same stretch of coastline, it's historically significant. So the mural reminds people how important this site is.”

Married with four children, Charles and Janine have been on the professional street art scene for two decades, colourfully outworking their genealogical urban Maori heritage with a strong acknowledgement of wildlife and environment.

At the inaugural Street Art Festival in Tauranga in December 2015, they painted ‘Rise of the Guardians', on a Mount Maunganui wall.

This mural of a spotted shag within a Whare design – tukutuku panels – acknowledged the Rena disaster and its impact on the local birdlife. During that festival 16 murals from 18 artists brought Mount Maunganui alive with colour, under the theme ‘Land and Sea'.

This year Paradox Inside features seven street artists at the Tauranga Art Gallery.

Six of these artists have painting central Tauranga city walls – Paradox Outside – between March 23-31.

Askew One is painting at Masonic Park, Yikes at the Spring St parking building, Fintan Magee in the Grey St service lane, Sofles on a Cameron Rd building, Lucy McLauchlan at the Brooklyn Bar & Grill and Charles and Janine in Dive Crescent.

And the couple say their ruru design tells the story of the area. 'Further along this road, Paritaha Point was the landing site of the Te Waka Tapu O Takitimu,” says Charles. 'The waka oars symbolise their arrival and remind us of the great navigators bringing people here to a new land.

'They are like compass points, tucked under the wing of the kaitiaki, a symbol of direction that comes from following great leaders.”

Mauao is graphically represented with layers of black and white. The many seasons, occupations, wars and celebrations are all layers to the history of the area – and like sediment layers on a mountain they reveal the stories of the past.

'The colours relate to the surrounding area,” says Charles. 'A direct link to the ocean, river, sky and the building that sits across the road. It is about visual balance as people come down the street towards the wall, a unity of space and people looking towards the future.”

Charles is a founding member and president of the TMD crew, a globally acclaimed collective of creative individuals from all corners of the world who've been pushing artistic boundaries of urban and graffiti art for the last 20 years.

Janine is one of Aotearoa's first female urban artists and has spent the last 15 years developing community art activations and projects with a strong focus on youth interaction and life intervention concepts. For the couple, their whanau – family, and hapori – community – are an integral and important part of their artistic journey.

A walk around all six locations takes about 30 to 45 minutes allowing time for photo stops. The Paradox: Tauranga Street Art Festival finishes on June 15 and includes murals and installations at the Tauranga Art Gallery, the Oi YOU! Collection with its 22 works by Banksy, at Tauranga Art Gallery, the central city murals, and a range of events organised by Tauranga City Council.

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