Modern Jesus mural defaced – “pretty stink”

Jesus mural

“Pretty stink” is how artist Aora Novak described an attack on a Dunedin Māori Jesus mural.

The mural had been fully covered in white paint.

The artwork veered away from traditional iconography and aimed to represent a more modern and inclusive image of Jesus Christ.

Novak of Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Kahungunu descent guided the pupils of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Dunedin as they designed and painted the mural.

“I don’t mind about myself, but it’s just the kids have put a lot of effort into that so that’s not fair on them,” Novak told the ODT.

She is labelling the Jesus mural vandalism as “really vindictive”.

“No matter what people’s ideologies are, they shouldn’t be desecrating children’s artwork, basically.”

St Joseph’s Cathedral School principal Jo Stanley was shocked when she arrived at school yesterday morning to find the new mural had been fully covered in white paint.

“When I first came in, I thought it was just absolutely unbelievable.

“I just thought – what? … what have they done?”

Without being certain, Stanley told the ODT that she suspects the vandal wrecked the non-traditional, modern and inclusive mural because Jesus was depicted as Māori.

Commenting on the mural’s unveiling, Monica Devine says “Shame about the rainbow background”.

Stanley suggests the culprit is “very small-minded”.

She has reported the incident to the police.

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

Emblazoned with “Care like Christ”, the Jesus in the mural wears a Korowai, has a rainbow-coloured halo and items that speak of the children’s lives.

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

The mural was unveiled less than a month ago and reflects modern, multicultural New Zealand.

At the time, 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.

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.

Indicating the children of St Joseph’s Cathedral school are of resilient character, Stanley says they will design and paint a new mural depicting a Māori Jesus.


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