Olivia Haddon led the project to create Te Paparahi, Toi Māori – Walks in the City, the guidebook and app. Britomart’s Jeremy Hansen talked to her about what makes good public art, and how the project increases our understanding of Māori art in the city.

Jeremy Hansen: What’s your role at council, and how did this project come about? 

Olivia Haddon: I work as an Urban Designer in the Urban Design Regional Strategy Team of the Auckland design Office. We are set with the task to make Auckland/ Tāmaki a design-led city.  My specific role is as a specialist in Māori Design. I focus on bringing Mana Whenua, Māori values and identity into the design of our city spaces.

What’s really pleasing about the book is that it’s a reminder of how much great public artwork there already is around central Auckland. Did this surprise you too, once you started looking? No, but what did delight me is the volume of contribution that Māori have made over a long period of time to making place, that this is not new. What is surprising is that the diversity of Māori innovation and creative expression that already exists within the city walls had not been celebrated before.

What are some of the highlight works of art in the book for you personally? Highlight works for me are Selwyn Muru’s Waharoa at Aotea Square, Molly McCalister’s A Māori Figure in a Kaitaka Cloak and the tukutuku panels inside the Ellen Melville Hall, gifted to the city in 1962 and restored by Ngāti Whātua Orakei weavers in 2017.

What is good public art, and how do we make sure we have more of it as a city? Good public art is site-specific, reflective of local history and or social context, and has been commissioned and made through a shared process with direct partnership with community. Above all it is innovative, and culturally expressive giving meaning to our collective identity.

The works of art in the book all have a strong connection to mana whenua, but aren’t necessarily by Māori artists. What approach did you take in choosing the works that are featured in the book? The majority of works are by Māori artists or are important works for their time as they paved a new way forward for genuinely expressing Māori values and identity such as Molly Mcallister’s bronze warrior. What I wanted the publication first and foremost to do is to attribute and acknowledge mana whenua, iwi, and whanau  in the partnership and shared processes behind the works.

The book is also an app. Do you have a link for it?

For Android users click here 

For Apple users click here

Above Pou Tū Te Rangi, 2011, Chris Bailey. Britomart, Sanctuary Garden Te Ara Tāhuhu Walking Street, 5 Gore St

Below Pipi Beds, 2003, Chaz Doherty, Renata Blair, Bernard Makoare. Britomart, Takutai Square, 130 Quay Street