Brenda Manu was as bright and cheerful as her paintings.

She was a prolific painter, and her murals can be seen on the walls that were behind the now-demolished Mash Trust building on Main St (Manawatū Guardian, June 25).

November 16, 2016, Brenda died after a lengthy battle with bowel cancer.

Brenda's daughter Renee recalls how devastated she was to lose her best friend.


Time passes, but for Renee speaking about her mother brought back the memories of a determined, practical and brave woman.

"She did not like to talk about the terminal diagnosis to me, but she talked to other people.

"When I visited her we would just sit and be, or we would read."

Renee said her mother was a great storyteller.

"A raconteur. Everything she said was funny.

"Mum's whole journey was laugh and cry."

Following the diagnosis, Brenda bought a simple pine coffin from a man in Foxton, and painted it.

"Come and see my coffin," she told Renee and her friends.


The family were a little surprised and concerned, but accepted this is what she wanted.

No fuss, a quick send off and then everyone could celebrate her life.

As with the way Brenda lived her colourful and joyful life, she painted herself reading a book at one end of the coffin, and on the other, a monarch butterfly and flowers.

Brenda Manu painted her simple pine coffin.
Brenda Manu painted her simple pine coffin.

Brenda's close friend Tania Southee who worked with her at Living Plus in the vocational service, said the places she painted in the Main St murals were where they took their clients.

It was at the Learning Connexion in Wellington that Brenda found her painting stroke.

In their home she painted a kitchen wall, and when Brenda died, the Housing Corp cut out the wall. Renee says she does not know where the wall went, but she knows it was not destroyed.

In 2015 Brenda and her artist friend Eris Newson held an exhibition of their works, Rise, Rinse, Rest, Repeat.

The title was poignant.

"Mum was dying and Eris was pregnant."

It was her eye for the beauty in all she saw that Brenda translated through her paintings.

"Mum never saw clouds, she saw art.

"She was an avid gardener, and we went to fairs and art exhibitions."

The late Brenda Manu loved the beach.
The late Brenda Manu loved the beach.

However, commissions were not easy for this woman whose paintings could be described as soulwork.

"I asked her to paint my horses. She did but did not like the painting, so she started again.

"'It was always something she wanted to do," said Tania.

Renee said her mother was always drawing for her four young children.

"I think Mum's engineer father Alan Budd helped Mum's creativity.

"We had a working merry-go-round in our garden and all the neighbourhood kids came to play.

"After Mum left school she worked as a photographic colourist, and she was very good at it.

"She really was an artist her whole life.

"I remember her saying that her dream as a young woman was to study art in Paris."

Brenda later went to the Learning Connexion in Wellington which helped her free and detailed style.

Brenda was born Brenda Budd and the nurses called her," little girl Budd, Rose Budd".

She is survived by her four children, Renee, twins Kim and Troy, and Jay, and mother Beverley Budd.