'Kaumātua of K Rd' swaps P for art

  • 09/07/2016
Selwyn Vercoe, the Kaumātua of Karangahape Road
Selwyn Vercoe, the Kaumātua of Karangahape Road

It was putting pen to paper that helped Selwyn Vercoe overcome his addictions.

A full-time artist for just the past 18 months, Selwyn's new career has been life-changing for the 44 year-old.

"It gave me a purpose in life, it also helped in my own personal development and self-esteem," Selwyn told TV3's current affairs programme The Hui.

Learning art therapy while in rehab was his treatment for kicking a 10-year methamphetamine habit.

"I was basically working to support my habit, my whole life concentrated around P. I became psychotic, paranoid, anti-social. I had no interest in people," he says.

Selwyn has earned the title 'The Kaumātua of Karangahape Road' because of his involvement in the inner-city community he calls home.

For friend and confidant John Macdonald, the changes in Selwyn since he got into art are clearly evident.

"It was amazing seeing his confidence and spirit lift the more he did, and the more he did the more we wanted to be standing with him saying Selwyn keep doing this, this is wonderful, this is great," says John.

His unique style of drawing - all his work is done freehand using an acrylic pen - has also reconnected Selwyn with his faith and tikanga Māori.

It's reflected in his latest artwork for Auckland Council's Matariki Exhibition - a cultural fusion of symbols and designs.

"I've created symbolic figures of Maori and Tahitian designs to depict the Matariki constellations, which indicate the shared traditions we have with our Pasifika people," Selwyn says.

Selwyn's pieces will hang next to prominent and emerging local artists like Fiona Pardington and Sarah Riley.

"I was a lost soul in the community, and now I've been appointed to create the Matariki Exhibition with a big name like Fiona. It's an honour to work alongside people of her mana," he says.

For the full story watch TV3's current affairs The Hui Sunday 9.30am