Larger than life Manumea on Beach Road

Sighting the endangered Manumea just got a lot easier, with a larger than life bird taking up a corner of Beach Road in Apia.

Charles and Janine Williams, New Zealand street artists and urban designers behind the Paint the Pacific project put up the first coats of paint yesterday on the two storey wall of the New Zealand High Commission, where a Manumea will watch over holiday makers and locals for years to come.

The work was commissioned by the Save the Manumea Campaign and financed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and its Strengthening Multi Sectoral Management of Critical Landscapes in Samoa division (S.M.S.C.L).

Running the campaign is Jane Va’afusuaga and her husband Tuiafutea Olsen, who head the Falease’ela Environmental Protection Society.

“Their design is really going to make the Manumea come alive,” Ms Va’afusuaga said.

“Having it on this wall is going to mean that the Samoan people and visitors will be able to say oh, that is what the Manumea looks like.

“We have very few images of it, very few photos, because it is so hard to find.”

There will be six more murals during the year-long Save the Manumea campaign in the villages with bird sightings in the last decade: Salelologa and Aopo in Savai'i, and Uafato, Lalomanu, Malololelei and Falease’ela on Upolu. 

“We will work with local artists to paint the murals, and Charles and Janine have said they would be available to come back and do workshops with the local artists,” said Ms Va’afusuaga.

At the foot of the two storey wall where the Manumea will stand, Charles and Janine Williams share how they came to paint bird murals all over the Pacific.

“I guess our angle is that if people are staring at walls, why not use them as messages,” Ms Williams said.

“That is the vision of Project Paint the Pacific: going to islands and finding large walls, it is the most impact you can make.”

The pair have painted the Ko’ko bird in Guam, the Ōmām’ō (Tahitian Monarch) in Tahiti, The Otātare in Bora Bora and by Friday, the Manumea here in Samoa.

“It is a nice connection indigenously for us, working with birds,” Ms Williams said

“In Maori culture birds are so significant, like in most indigenous cultures.”

Ms Williams is from Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara, Ngāti Paoa, and Mr Williams is from Ngai Tuhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu, and Ngapuhi.

She said as “urban Māori” who grew up in cities, they have found it challenging to connect to their Māori roots. But painting birds have helped them forge that relationship.

“It has really helped us grow in our culture and our understanding,” Ms Williams said.

“The birds brought us home, culturally.”

Last year at the launch of Mose and the Manumea, a children’s book on the bird, The N.Z.H.C gave a $30,000 grant to the Save the Manumea campaign, and continues today to support the work by offering their reserve facing wall of the high commission.

The mural incorporates Samoan and Māori motifs behind the Manumea, and the message ‘Save the Manumea’ above it.

Mr William’s said their other bird murals within Project Paint the Pacific have all been with conservation efforts in mind and the impact on awareness is large.

Mr. and Ms. William’s will be painting the Manumea mural until Friday from 10am until dark, on the New Zealand High Commission wall on Beach Road.

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