Twelve Local Heroes art trail opens at UC

27 January 2023

Wearing the same unique manaia around his neck as when his bronze statue was created in 2009, Tā Tipene O’Regan attended the official opening of the new Twelve Local Heroes Trail at the University of Canterbury (UC) today with his wife, Lady Sandra, and two of their mokopuna, Manuhaea Mamaru-O’Regan and Hemi Johnson who are both current UC students.

  • Tā Tipene O’Regan

    Tā Tipene O’Regan joined by Lady Sandra and their grandchildren and UC students Manuhaea Mamaru-O'Regan and Hemi Johnson.

Canterbury Museum has loaned the 12 statues to the university for two years, to celebrate UC’s 150th anniversary. Each bronze bust was placed at a site on campus that aligns to their contributions to Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Historian and Ngāi Tahu kaumatua Tā Tipene was the first Assistant Vice-Chancellor Māori at UC. His statue overlooks Te Ao Mārama, the building that houses Aotahi – School of Māori and Indigenous Studies, Kā Waimaero | Ngāi Tahu Centre and Te Waka Pākākano | Office of Māori, Pacific, and Equity.

The heroes were people from his generation, Tā Tipene said, and he remembered the moment he was invited to be one of the local heroes by Sir Miles Warren, Susan Wakefield and Ros Burdon, trustees of the Local Heroes Trust.

He was pleased to see the statues installed on UC’s Ilam campus.  “It is gratifying to see them out in the open in this setting rather than languishing in a storeroom.”

The collection was created in 2009 and displayed at the Arts Centre until the Christchurch earthquakes. This is the first time the 12 artworks have been displayed publicly in more than a decade.

Tumu Whakarae | Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey and Amokapua | Assistant Vice-Chancellor Engagement Brett Berquist welcomed family members of the 12 local heroes, as well as the sculptor, UC Fine Arts alumni Mark Whyte, and Director of Canterbury Museum Anthony Wright at a reception on campus.

Professor De la Rey thanked Tā Tipene for his contribution to UC, as the former AVC Māori but also in “helping to shape the History department” as a lecturer.  Tā Tipene is currently an Ahorangi Tauhere | Adjunct Professor at the University of Canterbury’s Kā Waimaero | Ngāi Tahu Centre.

She paid tribute to the 12 local heroes as inspirational leaders whose focus on social purpose contributed to the economic, social, cultural and sporting life of the city.

The local heroes have strong connections to UC. Half of them received honorary doctorates from UC, including political, social and local community activist, well-loved historian and writer, Elsie Locke, and father of the electronics and radio-communications industry in Christchurch Angus Tait, who both have UC buildings named in their honour.

Four are UC alumni including world-famous writer of magical stories and verse for children and young adults Margaret Mahy, artist, painter and craftsman William Sutton (who also taught Fine Arts at UC), founder of diabetes research Sir Donald Beaven and, again, Elsie Locke.

Diana, Lady Isaac and Sir Robertson (Bob) Stewart were generous donors, while Sir Miles Warren designed UC buildings and Charles Luney’s company built some of them.  

UC’s Facilities Management and Art Collections teams helped to make the project a reality.

Read more about the Twelve Local Heroes here.

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