70 years ago, in 1951, 13 year old Mei Whaitiri (then Mei Irihapiti Robin) of Ahuriri was chosen as the model for the Pania of the Reef Statue in Ahuriri.
3 years after the modelling photos were taken, the commissioned statue was finished and unveiled on Marine Parade in Ahuriri where it still stands today and is a highlight for tourists to visit and take photos with when visiting Ahuriri. Most locals have visited the statue and many have taken photos with it too.
Now, The Breeze together with Creative Arts Napier invited local artists to a special session with Mei where they would have the chance to capture Mei or any part of the Pania story in whatever medium they were comfortable working with. The following artists were in attendance:
- Marama Ngawhika – painter/weaver
- Emily Armstrong - drawing
- Freeman White - painter
- Michele Jung – painter (watercolours)
- Helen Dynes – painter
- Kay Bazzard – clay sculptor
- Clayton Gibson – painter/sculptor
- Putaanga Waitoa - photographer
- John Gisborne – (mould of Pania) Sculptor
Mei looked absolutely beautiful as she sat for the session in a Korowai with the Hei-tiki that is featured in the Pania Sculpture around her neck.
The artists are currently working on their pieces which will all be displayed at an exhibition at the Napier Creative Arts Gallery from the 26th of September.
Mei has asked that some of the proceeds from the sale of any of these artworks go to Hukarere Girls College which she was attending at the time the Pania statue was sculpted to go towards their fundraising efforts for a new church.