Songs of the sea: Napier artist Cinzah Merken gives a voice to the oceanby Vivienne Haldane
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Cinzah Merkens describes himself as an “artivist”: an artist who paints for a cause. “It allows me to give voice to something that I believe in,” he says.
“I guess it goes back to catching eels when I was young; my poppa had tyre traps at the bottom of his section.”
The festival, which was held again in March this year, is run on a volunteer basis and features 53 local and international artists. Rather than being a harbinger of doom, Merkens says, the murals aim to bring a message to the streets – encouraging people to seek solutions for the plight of our oceans. The project is the initiative of the PangeaSeed Foundation, a global organisation that addresses environmental issues such as overfishing, climate change, habitat loss and pollution (pangea is derived from the Greek for “entire earth”).
Merkens moved to Hawke’s Bay from Auckland with his wife and two children, and when he was asked to launch PangeaSeed in New Zealand, he knew he’d found the perfect location. “I thought, ‘Man, this place is beautiful, there’s no shortage of walls and it’s right on the coast.’”
At the first Sea Walls festival, held in Mexico in 2014, he swam with “bus-sized” whale sharks and worked alongside some of his idols, including graffiti and street artists. His passion for making art with meaning has taken him all over the world – most recently to Estonia, where he joined 60 “transgrafiti” mural artists for Mextonia, a festival marking the country’s centennial celebrations and its cultural connections with Mexico.
A map of the Sea Walls murals in Napier is available from the i-SITE Visitor Centre on Marine Parade and also at www.napier.govt.nz.
This was published in the September 2017 issue of North & South.
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