Manaakitanga at the heart of Askew social work mural

Created by Kiwi artist Askew One, (aka Elliot O’Donnell), the ‘Manaakitanga mural’ was unveiled recently at Epsom Campus in celebration of our social work students and graduates.

The Manaakitanga mural by Askew One now adorns a fence of the tennis court facing the cafe at Epsom Campus.

Askew created the work in response to hearing social work students interviewed about why they were studying and what they hoped to achieve.

“It just reminded me how lucky we are to have people who choose to do this type of work,” he says.

As a teenager growing up in Auckland, Askew and his friends felt like they didn’t have a voice in their community until they were inspired by the city graffiti scenes and crews in the early 1990s to begin graffiti art.

Graffiti was an outlet which allowed him to shape and engage with his community, providing him with a sense of value and self-worth, and he saw a parallel between this outlet and the efforts of social workers who help people connect with their communities.

The unveiling of the mural at Epsom Campus.

The mural’s theme focuses on the Māori concept of manaakitanga which means to akiaki (cherish/nurture) the mana (pride, reputation, status) of others by nurturing relationships, looking after people, and being careful about how others are treated.

“It’s more than just using the word, it’s a basic guiding principle; it is deeply understanding and appreciating the concept of manaakitanga as you apply it to your life,” he says.

The mural depicts the natural elements of harakeke, hibiscus flowers, kete, ocean waters and a human hand, playing with intersecting positive and negative space, which conveys one of the key concepts of manaakitanga; the interconnectedness of the world and its people.

For our social work cohort, manaakitanga is central to their focus on equality and the empowerment of people and communities facing hardship.

“With manaakitanga, it’s important to show love and respect, not only in regard to culture but we’re all human beings, and we all deserve to be treated equally,” says Rad Fatani, a social work graduate now working as a youth social worker.

The mural was created in collaboration with the Faculty of Education and Social Work.

Ko koe ki tēnā, ko ahau ki tēnei kīwai o te kete.
(You take that handle and I take this handle of the basket – together, we can make it happen).