Wanaka’s 2013 Festival of Colour was a huge success, with more than 12,000 ticket sales for 76 performances, staged over four days.

Once again Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu sponsored the Pouwhenua-Billboards project on the edge of the lake. Four artists created billboards inspired by Wānaka and its surroundings, looking at its historical context for our tūpuna. This kaupapa resulted in four very different but equally dynamic and beautiful works.

Working in a public space and answering questions fired at them, can be very demanding for artists, as they try to create their works simultaneously. Few artists experience such close scrutiny while they’re working so it can be difficult and challenging for them. One of the artists, Priscilla Cowie (Ngāi Tūāhuriri), can attest to this. For Tai Kerekere (Kāti Huirapa, Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki), having the public actually lay their hands in paint to make marks on his work, that interaction was dynamic and exciting. For him, it took the pouwhenua beyond a normal billboard.
These are contemporary pouwhenua that speak strongly about the community and context they are created in.

Five days after the artists started work, the whakawātea for the festival and the pouwhenua took place. The early morning light on Tāne au roa/Mt Roy, the stillness of the lake and the finished pouwhenua, combined to provide a special setting for the small crowd. Karakia and mihi were given by Waiariki Parata Taiapa and Suzanne Ellison on behalf of manawhenua and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu; and Philip Tremewan spoke on behalf of the Festival of Colour. Everyone joined in the final waiata, getting the 5th Festival of Colour off to another good start.

At the conclusion of the festival, the pouwhenua billboards were taken down. Works created by Richard Adams and Hayley King (Flox), stayed in the Central Otago area; while those created by Priscilla Cowie and Tai Kerekere, moved to a new home with Kati Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki.

An important aspect of this project is the manaakitaka the Festival of Colour extends to all participating artists. For this project the artists shared a fabulous whare thanks to the generosity of a local Wānaka couple, and volunteer helpers were there support them.

Thanks to Matapura Ellison for providing historical information and for the wānaka he led with the artists in their preparation for this project. Thanks also to Richie Hewitt for access to the comprehensive research he has compiled on the Upper Clutha area.
Nā Suzanne Ellison, Trustee Festival of Colour.

Priscilla Cowie paints in an idyllic setting.

Priscilla Cowie at work on her billboard.

Tai Kerekere incorporates local handprints into his work.

Tai Kerekere putting the finishing touches to his work.

Tai Kerekere chats with one of the locals.