1 hour and 30 minutes
30 minutes
Information for this trail was last updated May 2024

The Sea Walls Tairāwhiti: Artists for Oceans murals project brought ocean conservation into the streets of Gisborne. 

Launched in October 2018, in collaboration with Pangea Seed Foundation, the murals are hidden gems within Gisborne city and Ūawa (Tolaga Bay). Trust Tairāwhiti funded a group of international and New Zealand artists, brought together by Kelly Spencer, to create an explosion of colour. Papa Mau Piailug, a master Micronesian traditional navigator, features in one of the murals, and others are about ocean acidification, and a Māori legend from Tūranganui a Kiwa. Listen to more in Sea Walls Tairāwhiti link.

In Ūawa, the two (toroa) albatrosses in a Sea Walls Tairāwhiti mural are Tiungarangi and Harongarangi, which belonged to the great chief Ruakapanga in Hawaiiki. Every iwi has its own version of how the kumara arrived in Aotearoa and some have a similar theme. Kumara was really missed for its sweetness and, although the diet in Aotearoa had plenty of protein and greenery, it lacked carbohydrate. In the story from Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Pourangahua went to Hawaiiki to ask Ruakapanga if he could borrow his pet albatrosses to carry him and some kumara back to Aotearoa. Ruakapanga was hesitant because he loves his pet birds dearly. He warns Pourangahua that as soon as he arrives in Ūawa he must release the birds, before the sun rises. Ruakapanga says a karakia to guide Tiungarangi and Harongarangi safely on their journey, and Pourangahua places the kumara on Harongarangi and gets on board Tiungarangi, telling Ruakapanga not to worry.

However, Pourangahua is distracted when he arrives back in Ūawa and forgets until almost too late to release the toroa. In the growing dawn, Tamaiwaho the tipua rises up and savages Tiungarangi as the birds fly over Hikurangi. The birds, although injured, get home safely. In his anger at seeing his beloved pets hurt, Ruakapanga sent the anuhe (kumara moth caterpillar) to Aotearoa to attack the kumara plants of Pourangahua and his people.

Nearly all of the murals are easily accessible. Just a couple require a little planning ahead. The beautiful eel is in the community garden at Tairāwhiti Environment Centre, so you need to visit when the centre is open and walk through to the garden. In Ūawa, Te koha nui is within Tolaga Bay Area School, and permission to enter the school grounds will need to be sought.

In 2016 and 2017 the Sea Walls project focused on Napier CBD and Ahuriri, where 50 murals can be seen.

The cover photo of a whale with her youngster is by Gay Young.

Seawalls Tairāwhiti Murals Walk

History of the trail

Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans is PangeaSeed Foundation’s groundbreaking public art programme that brings the oceans into the streets around the world. The foundation collaborates with renowned contemporary artists to create large-scale public murals addressing the pressing environmental issues that oceans face.Link to Seawalls Murals for Oceans 

The foundation aims to foster emotional connections to and drive positive action for oceans through:

Art - creating environmental, public, educational artworks placed to maximise community engagement and awareness-raising.

Engagement - providing a multi-disciplinary platform engaging community members in conversations about ocean issues and stewardship.

Empowerment - growing a global community of concerned creatives inspired to utilise their talent to advocate for worldly matters.