iS – InClass Assignment

For the iS In Class Assignment I chose Maila Urale’s Inked as my part 1, my piece that I best responded with. And Joseph Churchward’s Churchward Maori as my part 2.


These are links to my original documents with images, below is a direct paste of the writing without images.


Maila Urale



Mailia Urale’s contribution to the Whau Arts Festival in 2016 was “Inked,” which came in two parts, a huge 58 metre long mural and a series of tattoos done onto several brave volunteers.

For the most part, only the Mural will be focussed on but I will touch on the tattoo’s as they are part of the inspiration for the mural. The Mural itself is roughly 2 metres in height and 58 metres long and features a heavy repetition of 4 specific shapes to create large scale patterns. Those shapes are / \ < >

Maila herself admitted that the majority of the designs were created using a simple word processing software like Microsoft Word and it reminds me quite heavily of the ASCII text style of creating images using letters and punctuation with word processing software and Maila has a history of creating artwork using type such as her 2012 collaborative work “Typeface” which created an ASCII text visual of people’s movements and dances. This too restricted its use to the symbols  / \ < >.

Now the symbols were painted onto a solid black, brick wall in white paint. The wall itself is not perfectly flat or level, it is brick and has a clearly visible grid throughout it which allowed Maila to grid her symbols and create a more consistent mural. The symbols are not perfectly clean, sharp lines either, they have imperfections, whether they are stencil marks or brush marks I cannot tell and some portions of the mural completely ditch the somewhat clean, ordered aethstetic and have a very hasty look to it.

Maila is attempting to bring across her Samoan influences in this piece by using these symbols to represent symbols and patterns found in Samoan culture. In the Inked interview video she talked about what each symbol represented however I am unable to find them written down. From Maila’s previous works, it’s shown that she enjoys creating interactive works, or works that are accessible to many people, in this case using such a simple creation method with word processing software and simple repetition which allows people to easily either recreate her works, or create works in the same style while still keeping them somewhat traditional and meaningful.

The mural, much like the Festival, is a temporary artwork and has since been painted over and covered in graffiti art which while being a shame to ‘lose’ such a great piece of artwork it speaks of the temporary nature of street and mural art.

The Whau Arts Festival is a community based arts festival designed to help artists interact with the local community and allows residents to experience what local artist, sculptors and musicians have to offer. It was for this festival that Maila created her mural and she also participated in using these simple shapes and symbols to create tattoo designs that would be tattooed onto 10 volunteers. This is how she makes her piece truly interactive with its audience as some of the community members became part of her contribution and as Maila said in her interview, it allowed her to “share her Samoan culture and pacific heritage… .” As the Whau Arts festival is all about bringing the community together, this is huge as several members of the community will always carry a piece of what she created that day. That is the nature of a tattoo, it’s permanent, it has meaning, it has too, it’s being put into your skin.

At the end of this all, I selected this piece because of my personal interest in typography and the use of technology in art. Cultural aspects in artworks also interest me and the way she fused simple type images to create detailed cultural pieces.


Corlett, E. (2015, October 9). Whau Arts Festival makes its mark on Avondale. Retrieved May 01, 2017, from

TheCoconetTV. (2014, December 03). Retrieved May 02, 2017, from

TheCoconetTV. (2016, January 28). Retrieved May 012, 2017, from

Whau Arts Festival | 2016. (2016, October 30). Retrieved May 02, 2017, from

Digital Art Live. (2014, August 11). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from

Interrupt collective. (2012). Typeface with Vaimaila Urale. Retrieved May 04, 2017, from

Allen, T. (2010). The Polynesian tattoo today. Honolulu, Hawai’i: Mutual Pub.

On Site Investigation

VAIMAILA URALE. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2017, from

Keyboard symbols inspires Pacific art. (2015, October 16). Retrieved May 16, 2017, from


Joseph Churchward

“Churchward Maori”

Oh boy, Joseph Churchward. I have been waiting for this day since the moment I learned of your little typeface.

This is a typeface designed in 1983 by a Joseph Churchward. Churchward is famous for his nearly 600 typefaces that span across cultures and one of the more well known typefaces he has created is the “Churchward Maori” typeface. It also happens to be a typeface that I personally dislike. Normally, a Samoan born artist creating a Polynesian style of art or type would be a non issue, with little to no controversy and life would continue as normal, but Churchwards execution of this typeface and I use the word “execution” for both its meanings here speaks of a distinct lack of care for the Maori language and culture.

The work shown here is one of the more popular depictions of Churchwards typeface and is a completely black and white poster containing his capitalized typeface, the translations for numerals, months and days of the week. Along with those it features a quote unquote, traditional Tiki depiction. This is just one of many typefaces that were hand drawn by Churchward and this poster and several others like it can be found in the Te Papa museum in Wellington. It is simply a showcase of the typeface lettering and some short examples of how they would interact with one another. One thing you may notice about the piece, is that there is a lot of spirals, or Koru. The Koru is commonly used in Maori art and is a representation of the growing fern. It starts its life tightly curled and expands out. This I feel is a common mistake when people are designing things inspired by Maori art and culture as spirals can appear to be an easy shorthand for stereotypical Maori style. There is a frankly psychotic amount of Koru on this page and this is my biggest issue with the typeface as a whole. Its over use of the Koru shape shows a blatant disregard for its meaning, both literally and culturally. It’s like slapping a Shamrock on something and calling it Irish, sure it’s a stereotypical and iconic image but that’s not the point of it.

As I peer into the depths of the history of type in New Zealand I drew upon the work of Dr. Johnson Witehira. His typeface “Whakarare” shows a much greater understanding of Maori and Polynesian culture than the works of Churchward. Johnson’s typeface analysed and mimicked traditional carving techniques.

At a guess the reason I chose this particular work over all the others is a reflection of the education I have received in cultural appropriation I had received over the last year and a half and about when it is relevant and when it is okay. Churchward does indeed create a distinctly Maori typeface no one can deny, and it is quite effective and looks good from a purely shallow and visual point of view, however it is how he handled his design decisions and his seeming lack of understanding that became the proverbial pebble in the boot for me.

Joseph Churchward Q.S.M, Churchward Maori, 1983


Trapani, P., & Witehira, J. (n.d.). The Whakarare Typeface Project: When Culture-Specific Visual Design Brings Elements of Universal Value. Retrieved May 18, 2017, from

Witehira, J. G. (2013). Articulating a Maori Design Language (Unpublished master’s thesis). Massey University.

Tlostanova, M. (2017, March 27). On decolonizing design. Retrieved May 17, 2017, from

Editorial Statement. (2016, June 27). Retrieved May 17, 2017, from

Walrond, C., & New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu Taonga. (2013, December 11). The koru. Retrieved May 17, 2017, from

New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu Taonga. (2012, September 22). Māori creation traditions. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from

Bennewith, D., & Olds, W. (2007). Churchward Video Notes A—J. National Grid, (3), 5-59.

Bennewith, D., & Olds, W. (2007). Churchward Video Notes K-Z. National Grid, (4), 45-56.

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