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A playful tribute: Dannika’s art brings joy and history to Memorial Park

28 May 2024

Memorial Park has long been a cherished space for the community in Te Awamutu. Recently, the playground in the park has undergone a vibrant transformation, thanks to the artistic talents of Dannika Tukua and a palette of playful Resene paints. The playground now boasts a stunning mural and vibrant designs that reflect the cultural and natural heritage of the area.  

Memorial Park is not just a recreational area but a space of significant historical and cultural importance. It serves as a War Memorial Park, honouring the memories of those who served. “The park truly is a magical place,” says Dannika. “It also provides a lovely quiet place, surrounded by nature, to sit and appreciate all that our Anzac heroes did for us. 

"The area is of great significance to Māori, and the design was to reflect that. The artwork was to blend with the environment around it, and tuna (eel), native fish and raupō (bulrush) were the main requests.” 

Dannika used a vibrant array of Resene paints to bring her vision to life. The colours chosen include Resene Reservoir, Resene Pattens Blue, Resene Azure, Resene Paradise, Resene Aloe Vera and Resene Staycation. 

The project was a collaborative effort between Dannika, the Waipa District Council and manawhenua, who provided the foundational concept for the artwork. The design elements, which are integral to the local ecosystem and cultural narratives, harmonise with the natural surroundings and create an immersive experience that celebrates both the land and its history. 

Since the mural's completion, community feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. "It feels absolutely wonderful when I see the kids finding and giggling at the fluffy bees and little bugs I have hidden around the playground nooks,” Dannika says. “We all know kids have zero filters, so when a 6-year-old tells you your art is cute, they mean business." 

The playful elements hidden within the mural not only engage the children but also bring a sense of joy and discovery to the park.  

The combination of Resene colours creates a dynamic and inviting space, ensuring the playground is not just a place for play but also a piece of living art that tells a story. The community's appreciation underscores the project's success, resonating with both the young and the old. 

Dannika was not short of inspiration as she worked on her project. “I have wonderful memories of playing at the Memorial Park when I was a kid, so having the opportunity to contribute to this beautiful space, for the next generation to enjoy, meant the world to me,” Dannika says. “Whilst painting, I was accompanied by resident fantails, kingfishers, bumble bees and ducks, and the sound of the stream was so beautiful. 

“I wanted to reflect the whimsical charm of the area in my art. Catching tadpoles, feeding eels, finding spiders, bumble bees and butterflies as a child was exhilarating, and part of our iconic Kiwi childhood.” 

The delicate details and skilful artwork leave all who pass in awe and wonder. Images by Jesse Wood, Te Awamutu Courier.  

Through a thoughtful blend of cultural symbolism, natural beauty and vibrant colour, Dannika has created a space that is not only visually stunning but also deeply meaningful to the community.  

To see more of Dannika’s work, visit her website Art By Dannika Tukua. 

Published: 28 May 2024