Mural artists passing on their skills to mentor one lucky applicant

By Jessica Tyson

Mural artists Charles and Janine Williams have been creating visual stories for the past 20 years, and now they looking to teach their skills to others.

Both have transformed their creativity into a well-established career and have travelled Aotearoa and the world to create artworks in the United States, Asia, Europe, and the Pacific Islands.

“Māori art is based around a story and we want to continue doing that in the way we do our bird murals in an urban context, in the Pacific or wherever we go. That is the heart of Māori; storytelling and constantly making sure there's education in the process,” says Charles, of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tūhoe and Ngapuhi descent.

As part of the PUMA x Red Rat Mentorship Programme, they're looking to share their skills with one lucky mentee.

“If it’s more business practice, if it’s more technique practice or if it’s just an opportunity to paint on scale. We'll design that programme around what they really want to get out of it. But what we're looking for is someone with an actual to pursue this as a career," says Janine, of Ngāti Paoa and Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara.

The programme is offering young Kiwis looking to break into the music, dance or street art industries a once in a lifetime opportunity to be paired with a leading mentor in each field to help foster their careers. One-on-one time with Charles and Janine will help the selected mentee to explore their passions, dive into challenges and come out the other side ready to tackle their goals.

“We’re lucky to be able to create work all around the world that pushes boundaries and inspires others. It’s been a challenging ride, which is why we want to give back and help someone grow into the most talented artist that they can be.”

When Janine and Charles started out, they say Māori art was overlooked. But over the years there's been a rise in its importance.

“If anyone is out on a journey to find out who they are as a Māori artist this is a really nice time to be doing it...For a little while, Māori arts was the thing that happened over here, to the side of the arts culture. Whereas it’s merging in and becoming part of the mainstream arts culture," says Janine.

 But there's a lot of mahi that goes on behind the scenes.

“There's the business of art and art. And a lot of artists fail because they can't sustain how to be an artist. The technique and the talents there but the business of art, like surviving taxes.”

The other two mentors of the programme include rapper Melodownz and dancer Bianca Ikinofo. People have until the end of this month to apply.

Other achievements by Charles and Janine Williams

  • The artists have created a large scale artwork for Matariki Festival 2016
  • Won 1st place at Ono'u graffiti festival Tahiti 2015
  • Are in the Guinness Book of Records for the World’s longest graffiti scroll
  • Have a screen print collaboration with Glenn Taylor from Gold Award Winning Artrite Screenprinting in Onehunga
  • Are consecutive winners of the world Write4Gold Graffiti Art Championships in Germany (2006, 2008)
  • Are the first urban contemporary artists to have been given the privilege to attend & paint large scale murals at the Festival of Pacific Arts
  • Charles is a fully sponsored member of the Ironlak Family Team & is one of three NZ artists to have a signature spray can in their permanent colour range (Phat1 True Royal).