A European cafe, a Chilean-born artist and the suffering of children in war-torn Syria - this international mix is behind a new mural on a wall in Whangarei.

Air brush painter Rodrigo Rozas said he wanted to draw attention to the effects of political crises on children when he was invited to paint a mural by the cafe La Familia owner, Mark Schmid, and the owner of the Walton St building, Wally Yovich.

The mural is on a wall of the carpark behind the cafe.

Mr Rozas hopes his work will pay attention to the plight of the innocents whose lives are defined and ruined by civil war or other political upheaval. The impact of political unrest was something he was aware of growing up in Chile, he said.


Mr Rozas, who has lived in New Zealand for eight years and whose three children were born here, said his sponsors were supportive of the mural's subject.

"They said just be free, be an artist, do what you want, and I thought I want to put it out there that the kids in Syria are suffering. I want to do my part."

Mr Schmid invited the artist to paint a mural after seeing him working on another wall in the city, and is delighted to have Mr Yovich's backing for the project.

"I always loved graffiti," Mr Schmid said. "I was born in 1970 and grew up in Switzerland and we were right into graffiti art and the counter culture.

"Rodrigo's awesome."

Mr Rozas has had commissions to paint several murals on Whangarei buildings and more recently has been painting portraits, a medium he hopes to develop further. In his final year of fulltime study towards an applied arts degree at NorthTec, Mr Rozas supplements the family income with work at a supermarket. He also has another source of income - painting coffins for a local funeral company. He works on those at home.

"There's one in my garage at the moment. It kind of freaks me out a bit when I open the door. My neighbour asked me the other day, 'What's going on in your garage, man'?"

Mr Rozas said the La Familia mural is receiving mixed reaction.

"I see a lot of good feedback when I'm working on it. I also get negative comments. The other day someone said to me, 'I don't see the point in you doing this, it has nothing to do with life here'. I say to those people, if you don't like it I'm not bothered, but this is important. This is about our world too."