Mural Paintings by Charles and Janine Williams at Haka House
Haka House Queenstown Lakefront mural painting

Capturing the Spirit of Aotearoa Through Art

Each Haka Hostel stands out with its unique character, yet they all share a common element: a splash of colour, art, and life. This personal touch is what makes each Haka House so distinctive and vibrant.

Walk into any Haka Hostel, and you’ll discover stories of Māori culture, told through custom-created mural paintings. Each mural gives a glimpse into fascinating legends, and an introduction to the artistry of the Māori people, brought to life by Charles and Janine Williams, local contemporary artists who are passionate about sharing their heritage.

For each Haka House, located in various parts of the country, the dynamic duo have transformed wall spaces into living narratives, stitching together themes of ancestry, nature, and community with every stroke of their brush. Their bold, graphic aesthetics, a nod to indigenous birds, flora, and fauna, serve as the voice of Aotearoa, in a way that’s modern yet deeply rooted in Māori and environmental lineage.

Christchurch: A Dance with the Kuaka

Haka House Christchurch mural painting

At Haka House Christchurch, the Kuaka bird takes center stage, embarking on an endless journey mirroring that of a traveler.

This mural evokes continuous motion and the dynamic energy of movement, as well as the bold bravery in pursuit of new horizons, against a backdrop that hints at the beauty of the Canterbury Plains. The painting features warm sunset hues contrasted against the blue haze and cool embrace of distant mountain ranges.

The Kuaka symbolises passion and persistence, taking flight towards new opportunities and the future. It represents the cyclical journey of a traveller who navigates the globe only to return home to rest and reengage.

Where to spot it: in the main dining & living room area on the ground floor.

Franz Josef: A Kea’s Playful Welcome & A Tale of Lost Love

Haka House Franz Josef mural painting | New Zealand artists Charles and Janine Williams

The playful Kea (parrot) stretches its wings in Franz Josef, serving as an ambassador of goodwill to every visitor, welcoming both visitors and the Mana Whenua (indigenous people with traditional authority over a land in New Zealand). Here, the colours of ice and legend merge – the glacier’s tears and a heartwarming tribute to the Kāi Tahu (one of the principal Māori iwi, tribes of the South Island of New Zealand) people’s tales. The painting alludes to the beautiful legend of Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere.

The legend of Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere

Long ago, lived a Māori princess named Hine Hukatere, who had a passion for climbing and mountaineering. She would embark on daring adventures, seeking the thrill of the peaks. During a moment of respite at the beach, she met Wawe, a charming member of the beach tribe. They fell in love, however, Wawe’s fondness for the sea meant Hine couldn’t fully devote herself to her mountain pursuits, and she missed the peaks she used to called home.

One day, Hine convinced Wawe to accompany her on a climbing expedition, but as she started ascending, she unknowingly left Wawe behind. Tragically, Wawe was swept away by an avalanche, leaving Hine full of grief and guilt. In her sadness, Hine embarked ventured into the Southern Alps. Overcome by sorrow, she sat down and cried, her tears flowing endlessly for years on end. The gods, sympathising with her loss, froze her tears, transforming them into a river of ice—the Franz Josef Glacier.

The colour palette of the mural uses glacial tones, which include Roimata tears, a graphic element symbolising the tears of Hine Hukatere. The glacier itself is represented as her frozen tears. The composition is intentionally pulled back to allow the natural surroundings to enhance the storytelling, with the birds serving as a central focal point.

Where to spot it: in the Games Room.

Auckland: The Energy of Tāmaki Makaurau

Haka House Auckland City mural painting Janine and Charles Williams

At Haka House Auckland City, the mural vividly captures Tāmaki Makaurau (the Māori name for Auckland), by intensifying the use of colour and contrast.

The striking palette channels the deep volcanic hues characteristic of the surrounding landscape. It also showcases the Tūī bird, one of New Zealand’s most remarkable birds. The painting alludes to the ocean and harbours but also to the connecting land, which are essential elements of the city. It also captures the spirit of Kotahitanga (unity), illustrating the relationships between the Mana Whenua (the indigenous people with ancestral ties to the area) and visitors.

Where to spot it: on the ground floor, in the living room area.

Mt Cook (Aoraki): Whisper of the Ancients

Haka House Aoraki Mt Cook Mural painting

The mural at Aoraki Mt Cook celebrates the native and endemic flora and fauna and offers a contemporary interpretation of the creation story of Aoraki, according to the Kāi Tahu (one of the principal Māori iwi, tribes of the South Island of New Zealand).

Positioned where people commonly gather, the depicted birds and flowers enhance the area’s social and aesthetic appeal, serving as a picturesque backdrop for photos. The birds in the mural face toward the viewer as the door opens, creating an engaging visual greeting. They are depicted looking towards Aoraki, symbolising respect and pride, and inviting everyone to engage with the cultural narratives embedded in the painting.

Where to spot it: at the entrance, near the reception area.

Queenstown Lakefront: A Canvas of Connection

Haka House Queenstown Lakefront | New Zealand artists Charles and Janine Williams

Queenstown‘s mural tells timeless stories of gathering and exchange, illustrating the beauty of Lake Wakatipu and the sunset’s glow, combining different elements to depict a simple yet profound story of love and adoration. It draws inspiration from the region’s rich history and early Māori creation stories, which emphasise relationships and connections.

Historically, this area served as a crucial site for gathering food (Kai) and trading items, and it continues to be a hub of activity, now known internationally for its tourism. The mural reflects this, with representations of visitors and locals, stunning sunsets, and the natural colour palette of the environment.

Where to spot it: on the 2nd floor, where the living room and kitchen are located.

Wellington: From Legend to Landscape

Haka House Wellingon | Mural painting by NZ artists Charles and Janine Williams

Wellington wears its name – “Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui” – with pride. The mural pays tribute to it through the Kākā bird and the Kowhai flower, connecting the capital’s natural beauty with its thriving culture and political significance.

The painting draws inspiration from the region’s original Māori name, “Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui,” which translates to “the head of the fish of Māui.” This refers to a legend where Māui pulls up a giant fish, which is a poetic representation of the North Island, and the head region symbolically becomes Wellington. The head is the decision-making centre, reflecting Wellington’s role as the capital city, connecting the islands of New Zealand.

The design also integrates the lush, rolling hills (Maunga) of Wellington. It acknowledges the area’s steep landscapes, including the warm sunsets over the surrounding waters, underlining the themes of prosperous and fruitful futures. Additionally, the mural features the Kākā bird, a native species feasting on the nectar of the Kowhai flower, symbolising abundance and vitality.

Where to spot it: on the ground floor, in the main dining room area.

Lake Tekapo: Postcard Scenes & Ancestral Presence

Haka House Lake Tekapo | mural paintings by Charles and Janine Williams

The Lake Tekapo mural design features a subdued colour palette that blends seamlessly with the natural scenery outside the windows. At the heart of the design is the rare Kakī (black stilt), an important bird species once on the brink of extinction but now recovering due to local conservation efforts.

The timeless colours reflect the surrounding environment (Taiao), depicting a pair of birds foraging in their habitat, symbolising resilience against Lake Tekapo’s picturesque backdrop. Also featured is the Pātotara shrub, historically eaten by Māori children, which adds a playful cultural element. Additionally, the painting nods to the story of Takapō, where two ancestors (Tupuna) turned into stone at sunrise, forming pillars at the lake’s entrance.

Where to spot it:
ground floor in the dining room.

Wanaka: Ascent of the Korimako/Rearea

Haka House Wanaka | Mural painting by NZ artists Charles and Janine Williams

At Haka House Wanaka, the Korimako/Rearea (Bellbird) takes flight. This story, painted boldly across the wall, illustrates a proverb of ambition and persistence. It’s a reminder that everyone is on their journey to new heights, echoing the path of the Bellbird soaring toward the Kahikatea’s summit.

The Korimako/Rearea (Bellbird) is a species native to the area, and embodies the theme conveyed by the Whakatauki (proverb) included in the artwork. This proverb emphasises the idea that with small, consistent steps, even the smallest creatures like the bellbird can ascend to great heights, like the top of the Kahikatea tree. The saying highlights the virtues of persistence and determination in pursuing a future filled with achievement, experience, and beauty.

Where to spot it: in the dining room.

Rotorua: The Powerful Tieke Birds

Mural painting at Haka House Rotorua

This is the story of the 2 Tieke (saddleback birds) that accompanied the great ancestor Ngātoro-i-rangi on his journey across the seas. He was a visionary Māori navigator and high priest who guided the Tūwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to the Taupō area over a thousand years ago. Famed for their supernatural powers and wisdom, the Tieke birds could predict the weather and their cries and flight movements would relate to the changing winds, making them important pilots for the journey of the Te Arawa Waka (the sailing vessel or canoe of Te Arawa) down to Aotearoa (New Zealand).

The mural at Haka House Rotorua honours this story, as well as the history of the local area, with all of the lakes as Kaitiaki (guardians). Legend has it that it is because of Ngātoro-i-rangi himself that Rotorua has so much geothermal activity. Upon reaching Aotearoa, Ngātoro-i-rangi left the Waka at Te Awa o te Atua and headed inland. As he walked around, springs of water appeared where he stamped his foot. These springs are still seen all over the area. 

Where to spot it: in the living room.

About Charles and Janine Williams

Charles & Janine Williams are known for their vibrant and graphic style that reflects their environmental and genealogical urban Māori heritage. Combining their backgrounds in graffiti and street art with a passion for endemic birds, native flora, and fauna, they are at the forefront of a new wave of urban Pacific contemporary art that is gaining international recognition. Having travelled extensively throughout New Zealand and globally, they draw inspiration from personal stories and connections to the land (Whenua) and the local people (Tangata Whenua) they encounter. Charles, a founding member and president of the acclaimed TMD crew (The Most Dedicated), and Janine, one of New Zealand’s first female urban artists, have been influential in the urban contemporary art scene for over two decades. Their work often integrates community and youth-focused projects, reflecting their deep commitment to family (Whanau) and community (Hapori).

Charles and Janine Williams New Zealand artists