'Herenui' 7 story mural in Papeete for the Ono'u Festival Tahiti.
Since I started this body of work, particularly the stuff with a Pacific focus I have had a lot of very serendipitous things happen to me. I’ve been rationalising these the best I can - I’m not a very spiritual or superstitious person but sometimes things happen that seem slightly beyond a coincidence.
When I travel to place I often have no idea who I’m going paint, I keep an open eye to people around me and let that person reveal themselves to me. In this instance after a long chat with Sarah the festival organiser I chose her. It was a lot about her real Tahitian name ‘Herenui’ that resonated with me for some reason. I had a vision of her with a flower on her ear in the fashion of the typical photos of & paintings of Tahitian women but with a detailed fabric worn like a loose bandana or scarf around her neck. Livi and I found the fabric in Papeete at a boutique but were struggling to find the right flower. For the first 2 days while prepping the wall I watched a couple working in a beautiful garden across the street and decided to go across, reach over and steal a flower from their front lawn. That’s the flower used in the photo. When I was painting the pattern layers on the head Livi quizzed me about the cross on the forehead. I had no answer this time as why I included it - I have in the past used it as reference to the impact of religion In many forms on the pacific but in this case I just felt compelled for some reason to add it.
This wall was a really difficult feat for many reasons and at my most frustrated point on Saturday, already a day behind and struggling to finish the man from across the street yelled out and signalled for me to come across to their house. I came down from the lift and walked across the street. They explained that they had loved watching the process of me working the past 5 days and had something very weird to show me. They explained that the house was actually the lady’s aunty’s place and she had passed away last December - they lived next door and unfortunately had to ready this house for sale. They took me inside the house and in the front room you could see the wall perfectly and then on a mantle piece facing back was a huge photo of the Aunty in her early 20’s posed identically, same flower, a halter neck dress with elaborate Tahitian fabric and on the mantle in front of the photo lay a cross. The Aunty as a young women looked so similar to Sarah/Herenui it was uncanny. I was really overwhelmed. We walked outside as I was still trying to process everything and then I asked the couple their names, the man replied ‘Leon’ and the lady replied ‘I am Herenui’. One more crazy coincidence.
We spent Sunday eating and hanging over at their house with their entire family. They are the most incredible, happy warm and hospitable people, I am so humbled to have met them this way it really took our experience in Tahiti to another level! Maururu Roa Tahiti!