Portrayal of Jesus merges faith, life and culture

Jesus mural

A vivid, multicultural portrayal of Jesus now graces the halls of St Joseph’s Cathedral School in Dunedin.

The mural, which veers away from traditional iconography, aims to represent a more modern and inclusive image of Jesus Christ and is the work of a unique collaboration between local artist Aroha Novak and the school’s pupils.

Novak, of Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Kahungunu descent, has spent the past few months working closely with students to produce an artwork that is as diverse as the school’s population.

“We really wanted to have an accessible piece of artwork for everyone” Novak said, stressing the importance of stepping away from monochromatic portrayals.

For a starter – a rainbow-coloured halo encircles Jesus’s head.

That was the pupils’ idea, Novak says. Everything about the mural was designed and dictated by the pupils’ choices.

Year 6 pupil Leo Innes said everyone in his class added something that was important to them and their culture. Leo, aged 11, chose to include a basketball motif in the artwork.

“Friday is normally my studio day, so I just came in to school and hung out with the kids, and we painted it bit by bit for a couple of months,” said Novak.

Significantly, the Jesus in the mural wears a Korowai.

The mural reflects modern, multicultural New Zealand and an educational experience for the pupils involved.

It is a testament to what can be achieved when communities come together to celebrate diversity and unity through art.

For Novak and the pupils of St Joseph’s, their masterpiece is more than just a wall decoration; it is an affirmation that Jesus, a figure often associated with specific ethnic and cultural traits, belongs to everyone.

As well as a mural, Novak and the students have created a conversation starter.


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