A Seven Sharp feature on Tuesday featuring Kāpiti artist Theo Arraj allowed us to meet the man behind the murals adorning walls across Kāpiti.
The feature began, “Kāpiti is being brought to life with colour thanks to one young artist who’s using the coast as his canvas.”
Theo’s work is large and colourful, and features on walls from Paekākāriki to Ōtaki. “I feel like it’s always been a passion. It’s something which has come to me quite naturally,” he says.
Dismissed by his art teacher at college, he has proved that it’s possible to make a living out of an art form often stigmatised – graffiti art.
“The Kāpiti coast community has been amazing, they’ve embraced me and what I’m doing, and I”m so grateful for it. It’s allowed me to do what I do every day.”
Theo’s first mural was commissioned by Kāpiti Coast District Council through the Public Art Panel in 2017, and is a large colourful mural at Kāpiti Lights.
Council representative on the Pubic Art Panel since 2016, Deputy Mayor Janet Holborow says the work was a springboard for other murals across the district. “When we were considering works for the space, Theo’s just stood out immediately as a striking and unique concept. It really inspired us to create more murals across the district.”
Other murals that have been supported by the Council since have included the Mahara Gallery and temporary ramp in Mahara Place, Pearl, Florrie and the Bull at the Beach Road beach access in Paekākāriki, Wai-ata Music studios in Paekākāriki, and Theo’s work with the Youth Council on the public toilets at Otaihanga Domain.
Ms Holborow says the inclusion of the work in the Kāpiti Lights upgrade is an example of the Panel’s goal to integrate art into infrastructure projects. “The new Transport Hub in Paraparaumu will feature shelters designed by Miriama Grace-Smith and other art elements which have been developed in consultation with iwi.”
Theo’s advice to other artists is to “just go for it”.
“If it makes you happy, and it brings joy into your heart, your soul, your being, it’s going to bring other people joy as well, because that’s where it’s coming from, that’s the intention behind it.”