6 October 2021

International students cap off education experience with Mural

People & Culture

A huge eye-catching new mural at the end of Queen Street reminds passers-by that a diverse population, including international students, has contributed greatly to Auckland’s vitality, wellbeing, and global connectivity. International students worked with iwi on mural celebrating culture and diversity.

Three students have rounded off their international education experience in Aotearoa New Zealand by teaming up with respected artists and local iwi to create a large street-side mural which celebrates the culture and diversity of Tāmaki Makaurau, their host city.

In the first collaboration of its kind, international students Nikita Sharma from Unitec, and Celia Lee, and Jenny Zhong from Auckland University’s Elam School of Fine Arts, were chosen to design and paint one panel of a three-panelled mural after Study Auckland invited art students from tertiary institutions across the city to join the project.

Nikita, who came from India to study in New Zealand, enjoyed working on the project along with Chinese-born New Zealander Jenny and Taiwanese international student Celia. “Our panel depicts diversity, inclusion and culture,” she says. “The project has given us the chance to give something back to the city and to the people who have welcomed us. We hope people feel a sense of connection to the artwork.”

International students were given the opportunity to connect with local iwi

The aim of the Study Auckland panel was to give international students the opportunity to connect with local iwi and work with respected local artists, including Hana Maihi of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, to explore what it means to make public art in New Zealand.

To help with the design process, the students joined Hana in a three-day wānanga at Ōrākei Marae to immerse themselves in Māori history, and learn about the significance of the mural’s location in Te Tōangaroa, on Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei owned land.

Study Auckland business development manager Beth Leyland, who led the project, is thrilled with the outcome and says the students are too.

The students’ panel was funded through a $20,000 grant from the Ministry of Education’s International Student Wellbeing Fund. The other two panels were designed and painted by Hana and Te Whetū Collective member Poi Ngawati to bring awareness to the rich Māori heritage and taiao (environment) on which the city was founded.

Collectively, the three panels depict the importance of welcoming different cultures and diversity in Tāmaki Makaurau.

The vibrant 12-metre-high mural, incorporates elements of biodiversity which were once part of the landscape of the area. The students’ panel includes the poutama, a well-known step-like pattern seen in tukutuku panels adorning the walls of wharenui.

In 2019, 115,713 students from 180 countries enrolled to study in Aotearoa New Zealand, and became part of our communities. This injected $4.9b into our economy and supported more than 48,000 jobs. Just over 63,000 of those students were based in Tāmaki Maukaurau. The city currently hosts just under 13,000 international students.

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