Whangārei gets a street art facelift

By Raniera Harrison

Whangārei is buzzing with Street Prints Manaia- an indigenous street art festival that will give walls around the city some artistic flair.

"It's chaos, which is awesome- it's slightly controlled chaos" says world-renowned street artist Elliot O'Donnell, also known as Askew One.

Street Prints Manaia is the fourth international street art festival organised by Pushing Arts in New Zealand Trust (PAINT), and the first held in Whangārei.

"I wanted to make sure that we incorporated Māori in to the name of the festival and then it had to be significant to the area- and we always have whakatauki that go along with our festivals," says organiser, Jah Smith.

Organisers say the artists will also be mentoring around 30 youth who have been identified through different organisations including police, Ngātiwai, and Whangārei Youth Space.

"Graffiti was this tool of expression but as a Māori kid, or a young person- creativity is part of your DNA," says Janine Williams, who, alongside her husband Charles, is looking to revitalise a wall on Whangārei's Bank Street.


The festival, held in conjunction with Whangārei District Council, is a chance to change public perception around the artform according to O'DOnnell.

"{It's] the freedom to explore and just learn at their own pace and [to] be there to guide them instead of standing over their shoulder and telling to them to do this or do this."

A total of 15 walls in Whangārei will take on a new lease of life over the duration of the weekend- all with the help of local youth.

"It's nice to see, especially for urban kids so that they can learn and express themselves," says Williams, herself a prolific graffiti artist on the New Zealand street art scene.

The event finishes on Sunday.