Extended Whānau 39 Wairau Māori Art Gallery

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Director
    Tyrone Ohia
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Eva Charlton, Rob Lewis, Artem Verbo
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Elizabeth Ellis, Dr Patu Hohepa, Elizabeth Hauraki, Dr Benjamin Pittman, Taipari Munro, Lisa Reihana, Nigel Borell, Tim Melville, Karl Chitham, Danny Tuato'o, Steve Watene, Ngahuia Harrison, Ngahiraka Mason, Larissa McMillan, Wildlabs
  • Client
    Wairau Māori Art Gallery
Judge's comments:

A beautiful and contemporary cultural design expression to recognise the first dedicated Māori art gallery in Aotearoa. Appreciating it’s indigenous origins but displayed in a new and exciting way, which is inviting to all cultures.


Wairau Māori Art Gallery is the first dedicated public Māori art gallery in Aotearoa. It’s housed within the new Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangārei, echoing Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s plans to develop an art centre that held space for Māori art. The gallery’s purpose is to elevate Māori art, artists and curators. The official launch in February 2022 was the result of a 20+ year stakeholder effort to bring this dream to fruition. The gallery is overseen by the Wairau Māori Art Gallery Board – a team of prominent Māori art world figures. We were approached by the board to develop the identity system for the gallery.

The name Wairau is a translation of Hundertwasser (One Hundred Waters) and was gifted by Tā Patu Hohepa. It speaks to the importance of the surrounding harbour and waterways for mana whenua, and the notion of multiple waters has deep symbolism within te ao Māori with water being the basis for all living things. It’s a contemporary name, filled with historic knowledge and narrative.

Our approach was to build on the power and concepts within this name. We created a graphic wordmark that reflects an abundant flow of cultural expression. A mark that is distinctively new, but one that speaks to the past. The custom lettering carves waterways, ripples outwards, and stretches and pulls to mimic the fluidity of culture, water and life. We embraced the gallery’s full name to create an unconventional wordmark that is both a clear description for domestic and international audiences as well as a dazzling pattern language.

The wordmark itself expands into a graphic system which can be used expansively across all necessary design pieces. On the website, individual letters animate like wellsprings of cultural knowledge. In print, they are finished in silver foil to echo the reflective nature of water. Across gallery merchandise, it flows freely between abstract graphic pattern on wrapping paper and back to legible text on tote bags.

Alongside the graphic system, custom paper sizes for brochures, catalogues and cards were developed based on the proportions of the wordmark, and distinctive colour schemes are developed for each exhibition. All of which work together to create an ever-evolving design system that can grow and shift with contemporary Māori art, and a gallery brand identity that is recognisable both locally and internationally.