Young artist gives skateparks a makeover with unique Te Ao Māori-grounded designs

A young Tūhoe, Ngāti Pukeko and Ngāpuhi artist is making over skateparks with unique designs grounded in Te Ao Maori.

Te Marunui Hotene is combining his artistic vision and passion for skateboarding.

"My skate art projects, they're always coming from a place of Te Ao Māori they always champion the korero of the local areas," Hotene said.

"They always champion the people who I'm working with."

Hotene grew up in eastern Bay of Plenty immersed in his Tūhoe roots - attending school at Te Kura ō Ruatoki. 

Growing up he witnessed events like the Urupatu land claim demonstrations in 2005, as well as feeling the devastating impacts of the 2007 police raids of Ruatoki on the Tūhoe people. 

"As a young person being exposed to this type of political climate... it was really informative," Hotene said. "You really felt the disconnect. It was us and them." 

Tame Iti played a central figure in these Tūhoe events - his activism and art inspiring Te Marunui.

"I was quite fortunate to get to work with Koro Tame Iti in the Taneatua gallery - it was really powerful for me to see a Tūhoe artist's success."

He'd eventually follow Iti into the art world - earning his Master of Arts from WINTEC and launching his art career. His artwork is colourful, bold and grounded in Te Ao Māori. 

It's featured in art exhibitions, public art spaces and recently a fashion collaboration with Māori designer Adrienne Whitewood.

Earlier this year Hotene had a chance to stamp his mark on his local skatepark in Whakatāne.

"I've always known it was a taniwha in recent years it was just going unloved and in desperate need of restoration, cracks and holes and things," he said.

With the help of other artists, friends and whanau, the project quickly came to life.

"Oh man, I was friggin' stoked. I knew - it was like, 'Oh, this one's a good one'. I could feel it coming."

He'd next love to create a street art festival - and invite other artists in hopes of inspiring the next generation of local rangatahi.

"I've got heaps of projects still to go, [I'm] working on a skate tour with some of our local rangatahi. So I'm looking forward to those next projects."