Invers – A Photo Essay by Rowee the Kiwi

I first met Rowee the Kiwi when he joined a street art tour I was hosting. His camera was clicking from the first minute to the last, and not just capturing the murals and more prominent works we were exploring, he would often shoot off down an alleyway or into a vacant lot to capture something much smaller in scale. It was clear Rowee was what you might call a ‘street art hunter’, an urban explorer who understood the way artists can transform a cityscape. And he has seen a lot, his travels have ensured his collection of flicks includes some amazing works by renowned and anonymous artists, many that have since dissolved, leaving his records as a legacy. Having returned from living in Australia, he settled back in Invercargill, a city he has roots in, and this shift has coincided with the emergence of urban art in that part of world, notably through the effort and work of DEOW (both his mural work and his organisation of South Sea Spray, an urban art festival that attracts impressive rosters to the picturesque south).

In Invers, Rowee the Kiwi explores Invercargill through his photographs of DEOW’s work and centrally, the massive mural Mia… So let’s take a trip down south…

Mick Jagger famously said “Invercargill is the arsehole of the world”, but then… he’d never been to Bluff. Having lived here during the 70s and 80s, I certainly didn’t have much to complain about. Which is why it was such an easy decision the retire back here.

I first learnt of  Danny Owen, aka DEOW, through my grandson Zac, who was doing work with him, mostly on rooftops and factory walls. This one is in the YMCA building on Tay Street, created with Ikarus from the DTR crew and members of the SLK crew, Devos, Omen and Dias.

After many years of apparent neglect Invercargill’s inner city is showing signs of a renaissance. Most of a whole city block is being redeveloped. Plans seem somewhat fluid but already important works by DEOW have already gone.

The Kelvin Hotel underwent a face lift in recent years and a lot of people were interested in what was hidden under the wrap…

The unveiling…

At the time this was the biggest work of art in the Southern Hemisphere. Now surpassed by Adnate’s public housing block work in Melbourne and more recently by the Adnate Hotel in Perth.

The face of Mia revealed…

Demolition around Mia…

DEOW and Mia

The fear is that most of Mia will be covered by a proposed accommodation block that may be built on the now vacant block beside it.

One piece that has fallen to the developers’ bulldozer is DEOW’s magnificent Tua’s Story of the Ghost Bird

One that lives on is, to quote DEOW himself: “The ghost bird” – Ngāi Tahu / Rakiura’s Tītī.

It is said when the ghost bird takes flight on the new moon, all tītī scamper from their islands and start their epic journey north. The girl symbolises the next generation, the next one to tell the legend. The Southern Lights reflect over the South Coast and the Foveaux Straight, as the birds glide past the skyline of Bluff – Omaui – Centre Island – Riverton – The Longwoods – Takatimu, all seen from the city of ‘Water & Light’.

To see more of Rowee the Kiwi’s urban art photographs, follow him on Instagram

Spread the word about what's happening in the Christchurch urban art scene:
Reuben Woods

Author: Reuben Woods

Reuben is an art historian, writer and curator. His PhD thesis explored graffiti and street art within post-earthquake Christchurch. He also serves as creative director and lead tour guide for Watch This Space.

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