A Tauranga artist with a worldwide reputation is enjoying the ''true wealth'' of living at home among whanau and friends.

''Being back home makes me appreciate how much I love it here,'' Graham ''Mr G'' Hoete

He has just finished a mural honouring the late Te Awanuiarangi (Awanui) Black on the rear wall of the Event Cinema at Mount Maunganui.

Hoete said it was a poignant moment when Awanui's son did a karakia just as he finished the final details of the mural - little more than a year after the Maori leader's death.


''It was a sad and beautiful moment.''

The mural also featured the Pukehinahina flag which flew over the Gate Pa battlefield when Maori warriors repulsed an attack by English soldiers in 1864.

Hoete described Awanui as a leader, orator and composer, saying he composed the haka for the 150th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Gate Pa in 2014.

The mural, which can viewed from Bounty Lane, encompassed a lot of what had drawn him back to Tauranga after years living abroad, including five years in Sydney.

Painting had taken the 39-year-old around the world, including portraits of canine behaviourist Cesar Millan's pitbull Daddy and Ice T and Coco's dog Spartacus.

The pinnacle of his overseas work was the mural tribute to Prince in the deceased pop star's hometown of Minneapolis. It went wild on social media and helped cement his international reputation in the medium of spray paint - although his disciplines went much wider than spray-painting murals.

The mural of Te Awanuiarangi Black painted on the back of Mount Maunganui's Event Cinema by Graham ``Mr G'' Hoete. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER
The mural of Te Awanuiarangi Black painted on the back of Mount Maunganui's Event Cinema by Graham ``Mr G'' Hoete. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

Hoete was now at a place in his career where he could pick and choose projects. They had to line up with his values and he said he had declined some big corporate gigs including invitations from China, Jordan and Argentina.

''I missed everything that New Zealand was about.''

His mum and dad lived on Motiti Island and he loved going over to gather a feed of kina and paua. ''For me, that is an aspect of true wealth. Money can't buy that stuff.''

Hoete said he was careful not to over exert himself by taking on too many jobs. ''Any overseas opportunities come at a cost because my heart is here.''

The Papamoa-based artist was hoping to travel to Miami later this year to share his art and stories with contemporaries.

His highlight for 2017 was painting the mural on Mauao's reservoir. He did some ''cool stuff'' at the Chathams including a portrait that will eventually find its way into a book featuring portraits of 100 New Zealanders.

''The book is paying homage to unsung Kiwi heroes while highlighting New Zealand's hidden gems.''

The murals were being painted on old sheds and structures. ''It is an art exhibition out in the wop wops with a bunch of cows. It is portraits of people connected to these areas, and telling their stories.''

Several publishers have shown interest in the book but Hoete was in no hurry, saying the project could take another four or five years. It began last year and he has 89 murals to go.

''I want to keep it honest and authentic.''

Looking at how Awanui was taken in the prime of life, Hoete said people only had an "x" amount of time on earth and he wanted the book to tell beautiful stories about beautiful locals.

In between times, he continued to paint for a cross-section of clients, including murals on the sides of 15 Farmlands stores around New Zealand.

He was sworn to secrecy on a cluster of ''iconic'' murals that would be the biggest thing he had ever done.

''It will be challenging.''