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From grey to glory: Stunning seawall mural captures Cook Islands’ essence

Thursday 21 December 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National

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From grey to glory: Stunning seawall mural captures Cook Islands’ essence
Prime Minister Mark Brown and artist Gonzalo Aldana take a stroll along the 562 metre Marae Moana seawall mural at the official opening yesterday. MELINA ETCHES/23122012

Access through the Nikao seawall road was closed off yesterday as a refreshing light sun shower sprinkled down, marking the historic blessing and official unveiling ceremony of the stunning Te Marae Moana Ocean and cultural themed seawall mural, and the striking new “Te Pou Tūtoru” (Three Pillars) mural by Airport Authority.

The vibrant seawall mural stretches across 562 metres and showcases all 15 islands of the Cook Islands, detailing significant marine and bird species, people, and characteristics unique to each island.

Before its wonderful transformation by Mexican artist Gonzalo Aldana, whom the Cook Islanders have affectionately “adopted”, the former dull and grey seawall was known locally as the scene of many tragedies, accidents, and the odd ghost stories.

Following the formalities, Prime Minister Mark Brown and Aldana took a leisurely stroll along the entire wall.


The new unveiled “Te Pou Tūtoru” (Three Pillars) Airport Authority mural painted by local artist Tuaine “Katu” Teiti (left) with the assistance of Laurie DeFrain Stemm. They are pictured with Prime Minister Mark Brown (left). MELINA ETCHES/23122007

“It’s wonderful, it’s been a labour of love for those involved in it,” Brown said.

“The seawall has been transformed from being a bare grey wall to keep out the sea, into telling a story about our country, our ocean, all of our islands, our history. It is really well done.

“It’s really nice that the seawall is showcased like this, it’s beautiful and nice to see it transformed into something more joyful.”

Aldana expressed his gratitude, saying, “I feel absolutely grateful and glad that the work is finally complete.”

“It wasn’t just about beautifying the long wall, it was about the background, the soul, the culture, the people of the Cook Islands.”

Aldana painted the mural with local artists Ashley Chaloner and Katu Teiti, who worked on “Te Pou Tūtoru” (Three Pillars) art work.