Whango, the guardian and sacred owl of Ngai Tamarawaho that once graced a building in Dive Crescent, has reappeared in a new form in Greerton Village.
The mural titled ‘Ruru – guardian of the blossoms’ was completed by artist Faye Suzannah before Christmas on a wall between Greerton Library and Turkish to Go, and features a white owl amongst ferns guarding cherry blossoms.
Ngai Tamarawaho elder and kaumatua Peri Kohu, who is also a member of the Tauranga Public Art Advisory Group, says the story represented by the mural is a hybrid of two stories.
“It was explained to me that they wanted to highlight the Greerton Village and blossom festival, and link to the Japanese tradition,” says Peri.
“My participation was to also introduce a tangata whenua story and so what you’ve got there is a hybrid of those two stories.”
Guardian of the blossoms
Greerton has a rich history in Tauranga. Ngai Tamarawaho Pa Tutarawananga, the first school of learning in Tauranga was established 600 years ago on the banks of the Waimapu River in the area known as Yatton Park.
Mural artists Charles and Janine Williams had previously painted the Ngai Tamarawaho mokai or guardian during the Tauranga Paradox Festival, near where the historically significant Otamataha pa was once located, but the building it was painted on has since been demolished.
Their mural was titled ‘Messenger’ as Whango is said to have appeared as a messenger on many occasions to local iwi and hapu.
Artist Faye Suzannah says she was initially puzzled as to why the New Zealand native owl was to be painted white.
“The New Zealand morepork is brown. But I carried on with painting him white. Whilst I was painting, a really nice guy came along and we had a chat and he said usually when it’s a spiritual animal it’s represented in white, which makes compete sense,” says Faye.
“He is guardian of the blossoms of Greerton, so I have named the mural ‘Ruru – guardian of the blossoms’.”
Painting over the red tape
Greerton Village Mainstreet manager Sally Benning says she had approached Faye about painting a mural that would be completed in time for the Bay of Plenty Garden & Arts Festival which this year had its festival hub at nearby Tauranga Racecourse.
“We’ve got no murals in Greerton Village,” says Sally.
“We’ve never been successful in managing to be a part of the Tauranga City Council’s murals that have been commissioned around the city, although it’s not for lack of trying.
“So we decided to do our own thing as part of the Garden and Art Festival. The plan was that the mural would be done prior to the Garden and Arts festival but there was quite a process to go through which we didn’t realise.”
Better late than never
The process involved choosing a Council-owned wall and then liaising with the appropriate Council buildings staff for permission, and with the public art advisory group for approval of the design.
“Faye had to submit a concept design and fill in a whole lot of questions. By the time they finally agreed to it, she was really busy with other work and so couldn’t do it in time for the festival.”
“We said: ‘that’s alright, we still want it’.”
The mural was finished in mid-December.
“We’re very happy with it,” says Sally.
“Resene came on board with some sponsorship paint and it looks very bright and colourful. It’s a nice addition to the village overlooking the greenery outside the library.”
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