For Paraparaumu artist Theo Arraj, every piece of art he has worked on is 30 years in the making.

All the learning, travels and past experiences shape his creative outlet - his paintings, and his piece HU1A for HOME festival, the world's first stay-at-home environmental mural festival is no different.

Presented by PangeaSeed Foundation, Alternative Arts Initiative, and Whanganui Walls, HOME is the world's first stay-at-home environmental mural festival.

The initiative acts as a globe-spanning campaign to unite creatives around the common cause of giving our "home" planet an artistic voice as we set our sights on a world post-coronavirus.


"Any piece is a collection of years of experiences and memories that shape my perception of the world," Theo said.

The painting is called HU1A and is inspired by the spirit of the New Zealand native bird, the huia.

"It represents the idea that even though some beautiful creatures may be extinct, their essence lives on and inspires positive change as we look forward to a future of higher environmental consciousness."

Theo Arraj with his work HU1A which he has created in lockdown for HOME, a stay-at-home environmental mural festival.
Theo Arraj with his work HU1A which he has created in lockdown for HOME, a stay-at-home environmental mural festival.

Running last week from April 21-26, the virtual festival coincided with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, bringing artists together globally in celebration.

More than 700 artists signed up from 56 different countries with the curators only having three weeks to set up the festival.

"It's all been pretty quick, we started talking about it about three weeks ago and had to get things moving pretty quick," said Simon Ormerod who has been helping organise the festival after the Whanganui Walls mural festival was no longer able to run.

"With PangeaSeed and Sea Walls being the main platform that people sign up through, most artists are from the USA, but after that the most are from New Zealand."

Putting in a lot of work to quickly get the festival off the ground, Simon expected there to be a good response, but not to that extent.


"People have reacted super amazingly."

With artists working in isolation in their homes the only way for them to show their work is online.

"It's been crazy, I can't keep up on social media.

"It's just bonkers online trying to keep up with everyone's work.

"Normally when you are working on a mural festival there are only a select amount of artists you can choose, and it's really hard to curate.

"This one is an open call, so it's kind of given it back to the community.

"Anyone can enter and there are no rules and regulations around it apart from that you have to paint at home.

"It puts artists out there that wouldn't normally have been involved on that platform, and they get their work pushed out to the rest of the world too."

Following the organisers on social media, Theo saw this festival as an opportunity to connect with other like-minded artists.

"I thought it would be a great opportunity to connect with other artists and collaborators and join in with a global initiative that encompasses my passions.

"I've been interested in the various mural festivals around the world for some time now but haven't yet had the pleasure of being involved in any until now.

"I love what they do and took this as a great opportunity to get on their radar, this is still just the beginning for me."

Enjoying painting subjects which are extinct or that exist in a different realm, Theo's works are often inspired by these fantasy-like realms.

Such subjects are the huia and pouakai because they now only exist in art form, memories or stories.

"It is a way for me to breathe life into them again.

"The huia is a significant bird for our country so it holds a high level of respect and power as a symbol.

"I try to tell a story with my paintings so I use a lot of symbolism."

Taking only a few days to paint the mural on the back wall of his studio, roughly 4m by 2m in size, the concept has been brewing for a while.

"I guess you could say it's taken me 30 years to create.

"If you were to look closely though all my works throughout the years you'll see a steady evolution."

Painting to inspire creativity and positivity, to empower himself and others, Theo would love to see a mural festival like this one in Kāpiti.

"We have a lot of blank walls that would be perfect for it and I think the Kāpiti community would be great hosts for an exhibition of this scale."