Community pride moves south

Invercargill welcomes Farmlands’ HeART of the Community project and Mr G.

Paeroa was first. Now Invercargill’s Farmlands store has the second of 15 locally inspired art pieces, created as part of his biggest project to date.

At the launch event on Saturday 10th June, excited locals and members of the Munro family got their first glimpse of the massive 7m x 10m mural featuring Burt Munro of “the world’s fastest Indian” fame. The mural theme was chosen by the Farmlands Invercargill team, who wanted to pay tribute to the local legend.

According to Invercargill City Mayor Tim Shadbolt, Burt’s portrait is the perfect embodiment of Invercargill’s “pioneering and determined spirit”. The portrait is also situated in prime position along the current circuit of the Burt Munro Challenge.

Working from his home in Invercargill, Burt spent 20 years highly modifying his 1920 Indian motorcycle to satisfy his love of speed. He set his first New Zealand speed record in 1938 and went on to set three world speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA, one of which still stands. This August will mark the 50-year anniversary of this unbeaten record.

Mr G says he was very excited about undertaking the project’s first South Island mural. “I consider it an honour to be able to create an iconic mural in such a beautiful and unique part of Aotearoa. Painting Burt has been an honour and a privilege.”

The pride of Paeroa.

Can art help create a sense of local identity and pride? If the comments on social media from Paeroa residents following the unveiling of Mr G’s first HeART of the Community art piece on Saturday 6th May 2018 are anything to go by, the answer’s a resounding yes. “Thank you so much for the beautiful gift you have given our little town!!” said one. “Thank you for making such a personal stunning gift to our lovely local town of Paeroa”, said another.

Even Hauraki district local mayor, John Tridega, recognised the enormous impact the Farmlands HeART of the Community project has had on the community. “They say a picture paints a thousand words and this painting says many things about the Paeroa community, including how proud we are of where we’ve come from and where we’re headed in the future.”

So where did the inspiration come from for this first stunning HeART of the Community art piece? It was the staff in our Paeroa store who, when asked what was at the heart of their town, mentioned the large horse teams and their fully loaded wagons that were a common sight in Paeroa historically. According to a local historian, “… they were the only transport to connect the junction wharf to the gold fields, eighty teams of horses worked from Paeroa to Karangahake, Waikino and Waihi”.

The history of the area struck a real chord with Mr G. Combining the horses with the locally recognised ridgeline (Paeroa literally translates to a ‘low hill’) he created a unique story.

Seeing their town’s history immortalised in paint struck a real chord with the Paeroa community. It felt like the whole town turned out for the grand unveiling of the mural on Saturday 6th May, as well as visitors from as far afield as Rotorua and Motiti Island in Tauranga. After speeches, a moving performance by a kapa haka group and a drone selfie of everyone in front of the mural, Mr G set about signing everything from gumboots (a very popular choice) to walkers!

It seems art really can bring a community together. “It is awesome that I get to provide a bit of happiness and pride and by doing what I love most: making art,” says Mr G.