Janine and Charles Williams's Auckland

We are graffiti and contemporary artists. We create visual stories that connect us to the whenua (land) and to the tangata whenua (local people) we encounter along the way.

Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland is my turangawaewae. I grew up in South Auckland and we still live there with our four teenage children. Charles moved here at 13 from a challenging childhood and for him Auckland was a place of opportunity. He started a graffiti crew (TMD) in the early 90s that went on to win the world championship (twice), and holds a Guinness World Record for the world’s longest graffiti scroll in Dubai alongside the Ironlak Team.

For us, Auckland is a culmination of all the special parts of our world in one i.e. fashion, art, culture and food. Auckland is where we got married and had kids, so it’s home.

Noise and culture at Papatoetoe Night Markets

Bisley Street, Papatoetoe, Auckland

Charles and I have lived together in South Auckland for 20 years as a couple, and I’ve lived here all my life. The Papatoetoe Markets are a Friday night injection of South Auckland at its best, packed with delicious food, noise and culture. We love the multicultural atmosphere, the loud music and the smell of different dishes in the air. This is the way to get a quick taste of South Auckland at night. And for the ladies, it’s all about the awesome cheap nails - you can get some desert AND your nails done for $45.

A market stall at Papatoetoe Night Market.

Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art

Wellesley Street East, Auckland CBD

This spectacular, world class exhibition is the largest show in the history of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. It’s mind blowing. Every floor is packed with the most amazing work from a range of Māori artists. Some of them have spent decades producing work, and to now have a space championing them in this way, is a real credit to curator Nigel Borell. On until May 2021 and free to the public, it’s easy for everyone to get along to see this incredible exhibition.

Inside a room at Auckland Art Gallery.

Britomart sneaker drop

Britomart, Auckland

We are self-confessed sneaker addicts, lol. If you’re into graffiti and hip hop and street culture, sneakers sort of go with the terrain. Britomart is home to Adidas and Nike stores and often the place to go when a new sneaker is released. Also Loaded on High Street. There are sneaker drops and then there are exclusive sneaker drops, where people will line up overnight or for two days outside stores like Footlocker. It’s a real fashion vibe with all these people who are into sneakers walking around and looking at people’s feet.

A man holding a sneaker at Nike in Britomart.

Mana whenua artworks in Wynyard Quarter

Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

The developers of the Wynyard Quarter have been working with mana whenua to reflect Māori stories, history and narrative. My iwi was able to put forward artists that represent their tribal affiliation, and I’ve done quite a lot of work in the area, which is a huge honour. The Grid AKL building is amazing. If you look at the building, you wouldn’t think it was an artwork, but working with the developers, we have created glass, door and timber ceiling designs. At night, you can also see a maramataka (moon) projection on the footpath.

Offices inside the Grid in Auckland.

Go bush in Tōtara Park

90R Wairere Road, The Gardens, Auckland

Nature and native birds feature a lot in our work, which is our way of visually talking about being Māori. Tōtara Park in Manurewa is one of the natural havens of South Auckland. If you’d never been, you probably wouldn’t know it was there, but the bush walks are captivating with kauri, pūriri, rimu and tōtara trees, that are home to kererū (woodpigeon), tūī and pīwakawaka (fantail). There are also picnic tables, tennis courts and an outdoor swimming pool. Charles is into ultra marathon running and he loves to train here and do the stairs.

A wooden playhouse at Totara Park.

Sunset over the Waitematā

Tamaki Drive Coastal Path, Auckland

Tamaki Drive Coastal Path goes from Takaparawhau / Bastion Point to Mission Bay. It’s a favourite running spot for Aucklanders and a perfect place to get views of the city and Rangitoto Island. Takaparawhau is an ancient pā site and the Ngāti Whātua Ōraākei marae. There’s also a memorial to the Māori land protests. Waitematā and the Hauraki Gulf are the moana (seas) that my iwi connect to, so when I stand here and look into the sunset, I’m thinking of my great-great grandparents who would travel here by waka, gathering kai (food). If you’re not on the fitness / training buzz, you can just walk to Mission Bay for an ice cream.

Joggers running.

Walk the volcanic cone at Mangere Bridge

Mangere Mountain, Auckland

Mangere Bridge is a junction point, just on the edge of central Auckland in Onehunga, and next to Manukau harbour and all of the motorways. Locals will stop in here to grab coffee, go to the beach or just hang out. It’s a special area because all the food businesses are locally or family owned. It’s not overly gentrified and has a nice local atmosphere. Te pane o mataoho / Mangere Mountain and shoreline are wonderful to walk around and take in the ocean breeze.

People climbing Mangere Mountain.

Spicy hapuka at Canton Café

477 New North Road, Kingsland, Auckland

Over the years, this Chinese restaurant in Kingsland has been the place for birthdays and moments together for us and the art collective we’re a part of, TMD crew. It’s noisy and yummy and central, and a place to gather together around a big round table. Some of our favourites are the spicy hapuka with long green beans, Peking duck and mixed roast pork. Their sweet and sour sauce over the pork is so tasty.

Two plates of food on a table.

Instagrammable food at the The Crab Shack

Shed 22 Princes Wharf, Auckland CBD

This one is a bit of a recent discovery. Our teenage daughter was keen to go for the king crab and buckets of crab legs - it’s great that our kids have a bit wider palate now. The Crab Shack is right on the wharf and looks out to the harbour. They do nice happy hour deals with chicken wings and oysters.

A wait staff holding crabs.

Keto yum at Otara Kai Village

120 East Tamaki Road, Otara, Auckland

This is a really cool social enterprise in the middle of Otara. There are colourful containers on the pavement that open up into a little food market. Small, local, Pacifika businesses serve keto food - low sugar, low carb. I grew up in Otara and it’s so nice to see Pasifika caterers making health food options in South Auckland, right across the road from the McDonalds. We keep an ear out for what they’re doing and will sometimes go online to pre-buy a chocolate keto pie or some snicker donuts. It’s difficult to believe they are low sugar.

People lining up to be served.