Napier artist Cin­zah Merkens gives voice to the ocean.

North & South - - In This Issue -

Napier mu­ral artist Cin­zah Merkens gives voice to the sea.

Cin­zah Merkens de­scribes him­self as an “artivist”: an artist who paints for a cause. “It al­lows me to give voice to some­thing that I be­lieve in,” he says.

As part of the first Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans fes­ti­val held in Napier last year, Merkens col­lab­o­rated with Cana­dian artist Ja­son Botkin to

cre­ate this bold mu­ral on the Na­tional Aquar­ium. An oc­to­pus wraps its gi­ant ten­ta­cles around the curved build­ing, and the dra­matic stare of a New Zealand longfin eel – an en­dan­gered species – eye­balls passersby. Merkens, who painted the eel, says it’s a species he feels par­tic­u­larly drawn to.

“I guess it goes back to catch­ing eels when I was young; my poppa had tyre traps at the bottom of his sec­tion.”

The fes­ti­val, which was held again in March this year, is run on a vol­un­teer ba­sis and fea­tures 53 lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional artists. Rather than be­ing a har­bin­ger of doom, Merkens says, the mu­rals aim to bring a mes­sage to the streets – en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to seek so­lu­tions for the plight of our oceans. The pro­ject is the ini­tia­tive of the Pangeaseed Foun­da­tion, a global or­gan­i­sa­tion that ad­dresses en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues such as over­fish­ing, cli­mate change, habi­tat loss and pol­lu­tion ( pangea is de­rived from the Greek for “en­tire earth”).

Merkens moved to Hawke’s Bay from Auck­land with his wife and two chil­dren, and when he was asked to launch Pangeaseed in New Zealand, he knew he’d found the per­fect lo­ca­tion. “I thought, ‘Man, this place is beautiful, there’s no short­age of walls and it’s right on the coast.’”

At the first Sea Walls fes­ti­val, held in Mex­ico in 2014, he swam with “bus-sized” whale sharks and worked along­side some of his idols, in­clud­ing graf­fiti and street artists. His pas­sion for mak­ing art with mean­ing has taken him all over the world – most re­cently to Es­to­nia, where he joined 60 “trans­grafiti” mu­ral artists for Mex­to­nia, a fes­ti­val mark­ing the coun­try’s cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tions and its cul­tural con­nec­tions with Mex­ico.

A map of the Sea Walls mu­rals in Napier is avail­able from the i- SITE Vis­i­tor Cen­tre on Marine Pa­rade and also at www.napier. VIVI­ENNE HALDANE

The ten­ta­cles of a gi­ant oc­to­pus wrap around the Na­tional Aquar­ium in Napier, part of a largescale mu­ral cre­ated by lo­cal artist Cin­zah Merkens (pic­tured left) and Cana­dian Ja­son Botkin.

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