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Mākereti Papakura : 7 Story Mural Celebrating 100 Years Since Doctorate Completion At Oxford University

ARONUI Indigenous Arts Festival (ARONUI) has honored a Rotorua leader, Mākereti Papakura (Guide Maggie), with a 7 story mural. 2023 marks the 100 year anniversary since Papakura completed her degree, a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology at Oxford university- the first Māori woman in history to do so.

The 14 day festival concluded in Rotorua on Saturday, with an estimated 500 + artists included in the programme of Indigenous arts activations and over 8,000 people in attendance across the two weeks. The programme of theatre, film, traditional arts, dance, visual arts and haka included its annual activation, ‘Te Toki o Te Arawa’- Te Arawa arts hero mural. This year the artists were the ‘Dreamgirls Arts Collective’ consisting of Miriama Grace-Smith (Te Arawa), Gina Kiel and Xoë Hall (Ngā Puhi). Local artist June Grant ONZM, great grand niece of Mākereti Papakura, oversaw the design process for the 24 metre high homage.

“It was a great honour for the descendents of our Kuia, Makereti to see the design unfolding each day, revealing the essence of a life dedicated to sharing cultural imperatives such as tikanga (values) manaakitanga (hospitality) and whanaungatanga (relationships) encapsulated in her thesis entitled ‘ The Old Time Maori’. This thesis is in every library, University and archival institution in Aotearoa. The mural emphasises significant emblems of Makereti’s journey which are visual references of her life and love of her beloved Iwi, Te Arawa”

Te Arawa artist Miriama Grace-Smith says it was a massive achievement to paint the largest mural of her career alongside her peers Gina & Xoë.

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‘’It was an amazing experience creating this mural with my mates. I am of Te Arawa descent but didn’t grow up knowing much about this side, I have always felt a strong connection to that side and spending time painting in Rotorua these past two weeks has definitely made that connection feel stronger.

We were very lucky to work with June Grant to bring her Kuia Mākereti Papakura’s story to life through this mural. Throughout the weeks we received nothing but beautiful reactions while painting and awesome comments from the Rotorua community. Seeing their faces light up and smile as they saw the progress unfold, gave us the boost we needed each day to get to the finish line. We also feel very grateful to have worked with Aronui Arts Festival to make this project happen, we believe other festivals should take note, the manaaki we received from Aronui was really impressive, a level of manaaki, we as muralists working in this industry for up to 15 years have not experienced before. Ngā mihi nui ki a Aronui!”

ARONUI Festival director Cian Elyse White (Te Arawa, Ngāti Pikiao) believes it was timely that Papakura be honored on the 100 anniversary since her doctorate completion at the prestigeous Oxford university. “We had chosen to honor Mākereti last year, without knowing it was to be the 100 year anniversary since she completed her doctorate at Oxford. ARONUI Indigenous arts festival is all about uplifting the voices of the Indigenous people of Aotearoa and other south pacific nations, including those that paved the way and who continue to be a source of inspiration for Māori people.

ARONUI is an Indigenous all-arts festival that ran over 14 days from September 11 to 24, and was first founded in 2019. The festival is helmed by descendants of Te Arawa and run by a small operational team out of Rotorua, Aotearoa NZ.

© Scoop Media

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