Photographs by Joe Hockley

Artist Vicki Tamariki’s cast of cheerful, crazy, cool characters are brightening up Britomart as part of our Works on Paper poster series.

You’ve dreamed up a range of characters for our Works on Paper series. Can you tell us about them?

I’ve jokingly been calling these characters my friends because I’ve spent quite some time with them. They’ve been chilling on my bedroom wall for a few weeks like they’re part of the family. Originally there were supposed to be seven of them, one for each star of Matariki but more and more of them were invited to the party. Next thing you know, there’s 21 of us.

What do you think those characters would get up to if they were freed from their posters and got to hang out in the city?

They’d all be off doing their own thing. A few of the girls would be leaving trails of havoc though. The bald one wearing the headphones, she loves to sing – she’s from deep in the forest where she used to sing in tune with all the native birds and creatures. She was pushed out of the forests to look for a new life here in the city. She’s sort of salty because here in the city there’s no sweet melodies to sing along with. She always has her headphones on, listening to her choice of deep basslines. If she gets super pissed-off she turns the volume up so loud that it rattles shop windows, cracks concrete and knocks your Nana off her feet. She would be causing so much trouble.


The little lady in the yellow hoody, she’s hiding the fact that she’s actually an ocean dweller. If she was to be released from her page you’d probably never see her. She’s super-elusive. If you were to catch her, she’d be lurking in the dark, creeping an alleyway, hiding in nooks and crannies. You’ll wonder what the heck she’s up to and you should be worried – she was born with a never-ending built-in supply of paint and ink she also has super tough tentacles as hair, really good for climbing. Shed be scoping the city and taking over the best spots for a quick tag, throwy and even the odd stomper or burner. 

What does it mean to you to have these characters eyeballing all the people who walk past them on Customs Street each day?

It’s a crazy thought, actually, that the girls are here on the side of the road just chilling, watching, judging. Watching you on your way to work. They’re probably secretly talking about the shirt and tie combo you chose this morning. Noticing the tiny bit of Weetbix you have on your chin, listening in on your morning convo, they can hear you bitchin’ about your best friend, they’re giggling at your odd socks and warning you honey about the lippy on your front tooth. They’re loving your attention, the fact that you can see them, that you’re wondering who they are and where they’re all from. 

How would you describe your artistic style?

My artistic style changes. I’m a bit of a tutu and will try anything, but there’s three main ingredients to my artistic madness. First, musical goodness – it’s usually homegrown hip-hop or RnB, anything vibey that suits my mood, really. The second is coffee – it’s got to be as dark or darker than my skin, two sugars, milk and a large mug. Most of the time I’ll have two sips then the coffee sits until it's cold or forgotten about. It will eventually be devoured but its a must! 


The 3rd ingredient is my partner Mana, honestly, he keeps me on my toes when I get lazy or cant be bothered he reminds me that I’ve got work to do. He’s pretty artistic himself and we can draw together for hours, just vibing off each other. He’s the one who is always prepared, with pens, paper etc, and I’m sort of just like, “Ummm… can I have a pen? Do you have another paper? Did you bring the blue?” It’s the best when we’re in social situations, or there are awkward deep conversations happening around us we just sign out and zone in on drawing. Now that I think about it, its kinda rude but that’s when the best work comes out.

Which artists do you find most inspiring, and why? 

I’ve always admired the time and effort that graf artists put into getting up. I’ve never had the balls to give it a go, but always appreciate a good piece when I see it. I guess these posters are like a 30-year-old mama’s answer to that. 

I look up to so many amazing artists most of them from right here in New Zealand. I’m crazy following Qiane at the moment, quietly watching her as she’s showcasing kick-ass indigenous women with her Nuku profiles. Every profile is such an inspiration and its about time somebody was like, “Yeah, fuck it, us indigenous women, we’re badass and the world’s got to know what the heck we’re up to.” Oh, I’ve recently started getting into this rapper Leikeli47. Holy moly, she’s so mysteriously inspirational. I’m forever like, “Who are you? Why are you so damn good?” She makes me want to put on a balaclava and write rhymes. Listening to her and drawing or painting at the same time gives my work such a different kind of attitude.

You’ve got kids of your own – are they artistic too?

These two are my biggest inspiration. Chorus and Julia-Grace, they’re super creative! Ju is the sweetest little thing. She has the most amazing imagination, can spin a mean yarn, and tells the coolest stories. She is better than me at drawing, the other day she drew portraits of Mana and I, we had to sit still and everything, it was so cute. 


At the moment her drawings are reminding me a bit of eight-year-old Vicky’s drawings. She’s got the whole Pokémon theme going on. I used to draw Pokémon when I was her age, and here she is with diaries full of Pokémon. Isn’t that crazy? 


Chorus is a bit of a bossy boots. She’s artistic too, but she’s 11 now and really into sports and Tik Tok. Chorus loves to sing and she’s not shy to share her gift of singing, she loves kapa haka and her confidence is such an inspiration. We casually have drawing competitions together. She’s always the winner.