History repeats in wall art

By Hannah Norton

Kiwi artist Chris Wilkie has applied the finishing touches to a mural he has painted on the side of the Jack Morgan Museum at Hukerenui, 30km northwest of Whangarei.

Wilkie completed it for free as a way of "giving back" to well-known local Jack Morgan, after Mr Morgan paid for one of Wilkie's first murals in 1963.

And it's no small feat.

Chris Mason, a member of the museum's committee and husband to Jack Morgan's niece, estimates the mural as being around 30m long and very detailed.

"The story of the mural is about the historic past of Hukerenui - it shows the transition from the times of Maori and of horse and carriage to now," Mr Mason said.

Wilkie said he used strong colour groups to "attract the eye of the public", and also tried to incorporate many local faces in his work.

The museum, which houses artefacts collected by Jack Morgan over 30 years, includes a collection of stationary engines, agricultural implements, artefacts relating to the local area, the railway and local Maori.

All are incorporated in the mural.

"The mural starts with a beautiful maiden facing Whangarei, and she's the ancestor of the Kake family," Wilkie said. "You've always got to start with tangata whenua as the original owners."

Local families loaned the artist photos of past family members, many of whose faces are in the mural.

"Right in the middle in a ghostly orange is Jack's mum and dad, looking up to the hill where Jack lives," Wilkie said.

The mural finishes with a more "common-looking family holding a baby", he said.

The background features prominent historical features of the area such as the Puhipuhi kauri forest that was burned down by enraged gumdiggers, as well as items found in the museum that were special to Jack Morgan, such as carriages.

- Northern Advocate

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