In time for the 36th America’s Cup, the vast western wall of the museum will soon be covered in scenes from beneath and above the surface of the Waitematā Harbour and Tīkapa Moana the Hauraki Gulf. The marine environment sustained and shaped the lives of our Māori and Pākekā ancestors, and will still but only if we care for it.
The Western Wall: Whales once again
The new artwork being installed at the Maritime Museum
Symmetrical Rangitoto Island will feature large, as it has done in the harbour for 600 years when it first erupted and rose from the sea. The volcano, the name of which sometimes translates as ‘bloody sky’, is bookended by a full-sized humpback whale and two scaled-down versions of vessels that berth in the museum’s marina and which represent Polynesian and European voyaging traditions—the waka hourua double-hulled Haunui and the tall ship Breeze. The museum’s brigantine has itself served time protecting our oceans and the people of the Pacific: in 1985 Breeze headed to Mururoa Atoll and Tahiti to protest France’s nuclear weapons testing programme. On the museum’s wall the two vessels will take up postiion under a twinkling night sky that depicts Matariki, or the Pleiades cluster of stars, which rises in midwinter and heralds the Māori new year.
Auckland-born and Napier-based Cinzah Merkens is a multi-disciplinary artist. As a muralist he has beautified walls across Aotearoa and beyond: from Napier and Wellington to Mexico, Estonia, and the Caribbean. For the past nine years he has collaborated with the Pangeaseed Foundation, a not-for-profit international organisation which overtly combines art with activism, advocating for oceans and their conservation.
High on the 79-metre-long, 12-metre-high mural, Merkens incorporates a blast from the past into his design: it’s the signature of Peter Blake (1948-2001). The consummate sailor, who was intimately connected to New Zealand’s successful America’s Cup campaigns, grew up building and racing boats from the Auckland suburb of Bayswater. In later life, concerned by the decline of wildlife in the world’s ocean, he turned environmentalist. In 2000—the year the 30th America’s Cup contest took place in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland—the occasion was marked by the painting of another mural on the museum’s wall. Blake approved it with his signature.
This project was made possible with support gratefully received from