28 Aug 2013

Maori artwork big and bold in New York

9:32 am on 28 August 2013

A Maori digital artist said the crowds in Times Square who saw his kowhaiwhai patterns displayed on New York skyscrapers were blown away, and he's looking forward to his next challenge.

Kowhaiwhai patterns displayed on a New York skyscraper.

Kowhaiwhai patterns displayed on a New York skyscraper. Photo: Johnson Witehira & Chorus

Johnson Witehira of Whanganui and Ngapuhi descent, recently won a Chorus digital art competition, with the prize including an all expenses trip to New York where his work was shown on 34 digital billboards in Times Square.

He said it was fascinating for the Americans to see because Maori artwork is something totally unfamiliar to them.

The Wellington artist said although some may have been familiar with Maori culture, the graphic nature of some of the modern kowhaiwhai mesmerised the thousands of people who were exposed to it.

Mr Witehira said after taking his work and showing it on some of the tallest buildings in America, the scariest thing is thinking how he can top that.

His goal is to become a digital tohunga or expert in Maori digital art and blend Maori patterns into everyday surroundings such as furniture, wall paper, and landscaping.

Mr Witehira has been invited to be a guest speaker at Waikato University on 12 September for the annual Kingitanga Day.