Grace Kukutai is a local girl through and through. She has lived in Blockhouse Bay in the same house that her mother grew up in. Grace went to the same schools that her mother attended – Chaucer Primary, Blockhouse Bay Intermediate and Lynfield College. Now she has a local business Kukutai Lawn Mowing Services with her partner, North Harbour rugby winger Tomas Aoake.
Grace started playing Netball at five years old and had a promising career ahead of her before deciding to switch to rugby sevens. She says “My heart is with sevens. I think that it is such an exciting game, but there’s no sevens going on at the moment, so fifteens has been really awesome because it’s a lot more contact and you still have the same sort of skill set.”
Now recently back at home from Japan, Grace is full on in rugby training as well as studying for her Bachelor of Arts majoring in criminology, with a minor in Māori development.
In May this year, while in lockdown in Japan, Grace gave an in-depth interview to LockerRoom writer Ashley Stanley where she opened up about some of the struggles that she has faced and how her outlook is now more positive.
Read the full story here.
Institute Lane, (an unmarked alleyway linking a carpark withTotora Ave), has just been made more vibrant with the completion of five murals by Paul X Walsh, a renowned Three Kings artist who often paints murals and public art.
The murals depict the old Maori portage from the Whau River to the Manukau, The first Borough Post Office, the brick and tile history, Crown Lynn pottery, and a futuristic vision of Totara Ave in 2220.
Paul likes using visual disconnection to stir reactions. Instead of doing purely historic murals, he has mixed it up a bit in some of them.
The murals were sponsored by the Tag Out Trust. This is a West Auckland non profit group contracted to remove graffiti. One of their core goals is to enliven streetscapes with murals instead of tagging. Vice Chair, Derek Battersby was instrumental in commissioning the murals. Warren Piper assisted by the arranging permission of the building owners. Across the Lane at Mix Moon, there is a rumour that Paul may be creating a work on an inside wall of the restaurant soon.
It is difficult to make a living from art and it has taken many years for Paul to get to the position where he can support his family with his work. His first breakthrough was being recognised by Chorus and invited to paint some of their street cabinets. At first even that was free, but then it became paid work. With the change from the copper network to fibre, these artworks will eventually disappear.
Paul really made his mark on the Whau with a tribute mural in the Avondale Art park after the March 15 massacre. This recognised Naeem Rashid who confronted the gunman but was killed. The mural “Remember the Heros” was widely publicised. "I wish I didn't know who Naeem was. I wish he was back at his job as a teacher today, and I wish I was painting something else," Walsh said. Due to the nature of the space, it was doomed to only be a temporary work. However, Avondale still enjoys a more recent mural, a huge historic look at the area and featuring St Ninians Church, painted on the wall of the Cosmopolitan Village.
Over in Lynfield there is a more exclusive mural by Paul called “Puketapapa” on a wall in the inner courtyard of Lynfield Recreation Center.
See below for images of the Institute Lane murals, and Paul Walsh's comments on each. Follow Paul on Facebook and Instagram.
The Old Maori Portage: One of the shortest routes between the Waitematā and Manukau harbours, the nearby Portage Road follows the pathway Māori took carrying their waka from the end of the Whau River, over the lip of the land and down into Green Bay and the Manukau Harbour (and vice versa).
This artwork is a stylised representation of what one of those journeys would look like, based on historical records - using logs to roll the waka, with children helping to carry the logs back to the front. The landscape reflects the historical flora of the area - nikau palms, cabbage trees (tī kōuka), and a row of tōtara trees (reflecting the location of the artwork, Tōtara Ave.)
The First Borough Post Office: The main building in this image is New Lynn’s first borough post office, built as the town board office in 1911, but the piece is evocative of the century leading up to that time.
The horse-drawn gig (two wheeled carriage) was still common in Auckland in the early 20th century, when the post office was built. [Note the old New Lynn Hotel in the background (left)]
It features ti kōuka again, linking it to the previous mural, as well as some introduced plants (hydrangeas in the left foreground, pines in the right rear) - and the whole scene is rendered in rich earth tones and illuminated by an orange-red sunset.
The Brick and Tile History: New Lynn was home to a thriving clay-based industry between 1850 and 1950, producing bricks, tiles, pipes and pottery.
This mural is a celebration of that industrial heritage - it features the main building of the New Zealand Tile & Pottery Company, with its impressive chimney piercing the sky, framed by some stacked cumulus clouds.
I used a bit of trompe l’oeil trickery when creating this one, reproducing the brick wall of the building it is painted on.
The characters are celebrating NZ's immigrant history, as well as a bit of a silly visual pun... (clue: New Lynn is at the centre of the "wild west".)
Crown Lynn Pottery: It’s hard to discuss New Lynn’s heritage without mentioning Crown Lynn - at its peak in 1960 it was producing about 10 million pieces each year, making it the largest pottery company in the Southern Hemisphere.
The designs are now part of our heritage, and are celebrated and loved as a vital strand of Kiwiana design. Since this mural is the shortest of the five, and is surrounded by brick, so I thought it would be a great spot to celebrate some classic Crown Lynn patterns and designs.
A Futuristic Vision of Totara Ave in 2220: You see so many historical murals, but they never seem to say: what about the future? I’ve always wanted to design a futuristic cityscape - and this was my chance! This is what I am picturing Tōtara Ave could look like in the year 2220 or so.
I have always been a sci-fi fanatic, and have spent a lot of time imagining what our urban landscapes could end up looking like. Most futurists agree that it will involve green roofs and urban gardens, and mixed-use traffic areas with smart electric transportation. Beyond that, I took some inspiration from London's "Gherkin" and the Beijing National Theatre to create these 'upside down pyramid' apartment blocks, covered in gardens and glass.
Yeah... I'd like to live there...!
(Oh and Pete's ute is still parked on the street.. except now it's a flying ute )