The colourful and creative world of Kophie Hulsbosch, aka Meep
Christchurch creative Kophie Hulsbosch, aka ‘Meep’, is interested in exploring the city’s diverse cultures and using her talent, day by day, to make the world a little better. We stop by for a chat at her studio in Christchurch’s Boxed Quarter.
AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS ABOVE SICHUAN Kitchen, Kophie greets me with a radiant smile and a big hug. It’s a lovely friendly welcome from this talented young woman, who is an urban artist, graphic designer, social entrepreneur, activist and so much more besides.
The studio in which we are meeting is a vibrant place, serving as headquarters for The Conscious Club whose founding members and friends also use this space as a shopfront for their various upcycled, eco-friendly wares. Founded in 2019 by Kophie and three other Christchurch creatives and change makers, the club organises events aimed at spreading awareness on social and environmental issues.
Alongside her advisory and graphic design work for the club, the 26-year-old runs her own clothing company Future Apparel out of the studio, selling her collection of sustainable streetwear and artwork.
Hip-Hop Raised Me – one of the works displayed here – tells quite a story about this artist and her evolving interests in identity, equity and justice. Recently showcased by Fiksate Studio & Gallery, which put it out as a limited edition print collaboration, it’s a brightly defiant artwork that channels her experiences of growing up listening to hip-hop and her more recent reflections on racism. Kophie is of Samoan descent and tells me the young woman in the piece is a close friend, also of Samoan descent. She’s depicted wearing a Polynesian Panthers beret, representing the rise of the Pasifika rights movement here in the 1970s in response to the notorious dawn raids of that time.
Kophie’s exploration of her Samoan ancestry has recently kicked into high gear. It was something she actively rejected as a child growing up in Wanaka, which was ‘pretty white’. Raised by her Netherlands-born mother, she closely identified with her Dutch heritage but the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US has fuelled a growing interest in what it means to be a half-Samoan woman in Aotearoa.
‘My grandad came here from Samoa in the 1970s to find work and that’s when the dawn raids were happening,’ Kophie says. ‘He moved to Otago, where Dad was born. I started talking to my dad about his experiences growing up in Dunedin and he told me how he’d been beaten up by skinheads and other outrageous things like that … For me, there’s that link between hip-hop giving a voice to marginalised groups, and Māori and Pasifika culture being influenced by that.’
Kophie donated half of her share from the sale of these prints through Fiksate to the Yemen Children’s Crisis Fund (UNICEF).
Issues of equity and fairness are recurrent themes in her practice. Through The Conscious Club last September, she ran an art exhibition at the Milton St Substation featuring 17 artists as a fundraiser for 17 different charities, each aligned with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Issues of equity and fairness are recurrent themes in Kophie’s practice.
As Kophie says, art can tell a story at a glance much more effectively than any official report. For her, The Conscious Club is a vehicle for educating people about the state of the world – and how to make it better – but doing it in a way that’s still creative and fun. Kophie not only curated the SDG exhibition, she also did the graphics and social media, built a website and created her own artwork for it called Style Wars to represent the SDG of decent work and economic growth.
Style Wars was a collaborative piece with young graffiti artist Magneto. Kophie’s idea was to contrast a traditional oil portrait with a backdrop of tagging. It ’s an experimental work, expressing the interface between graffiti/tagging on the one hand and mainstream urban street art on the other, as well as Kophie’s growing interest in Māori and Pasifika traditional cultures along with hip-hop and other contemporary influences.
Propped up in the studio is another large work that reflects this latter theme: Plantation/Togavao, a portrait of a young Samoan girl surrounded by leaves representing sustainability in the islands – taro, coconut, hibiscus, kava and cocoa. I can see hints of French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin here. Kophie did study him at school – but thinks a Pacific Islander painting a Pacific Islander is more interesting!
Growing up in Wanaka, Kophie enjoyed the vibrancy of the snowboard and ski community but says it wasn’t until her family moved to Christchurch that another world opened up. ‘It was a culture shock coming here and seeing all the urban tagging and graffiti. The 2000s was a big time for New Zealand hip-hop artists like [rappers] Scribe, Che Fu and many more. One of the first hip-hop artists besides the ones my mum listened to was Scribe; I really resonated with his lyrics and this led me into a journey of listening to conscious rap such as my all-time favourite Tom Scott.’
After dropping out of high school at 16, she worked in fast food for a few years until she was old enough to apply for a student loan. Having been a creative person all her life, she decided to pursue a career in art and design. She enrolled in a