Leafa Wilson's Hamilton

I have been a multimedia performance artist for 30-odd years. I use the name on my birth certificate for my lifelong performative work ‘Olga Krause - Deutsche Kuenstlerin’. Leafa is my given ancestral name from my grandfather.

We moved to  Kirikiriroa-Hamilton 24 years ago and I have been curator of art at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga for almost 17 of those years. My field of expertise is art in all its manifestations. My husband Craig and I have six children and four (or nine including their siblings) precious mokopuna.

I am a New Zealand-born Samoan person and while I live in a western setting, adhere to a Samoan-ish worldview with respect to Māori tikanga. This is reflected in my desire to spend time in places that set me at ease as well as feed my mind and senses.

Visit Tainui’s Waka

1 Grantham Street, Hamilton Central

This majestic war canoe was gifted to the city in 1974 by the Māori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, as a gesture of harmony and goodwill. As a distant relative to Tangata Whenua (indigenous people of Aotearoa), I feel a deep sense of gratitude and love for the Waka Taua (war canoe) Te Winika. In my humble opinion, Te Winika is one of the most important Tainui treasures. In Te Ao Māori, we think of this as an ancestor and living taonga. Because I work at the Museum, I often come and say hello to her, and I encourage visitors to also stop and pay respects to this majestic tupuna (ancestor).

The waka inside Waikato Museum.

Stroll through the jasmine

Hungerford Crescent, Hamilton

I have no idea why, but one of my favourite places in our city is the Chinese Scholars’ Garden. When I go there, entering the garden through the little jasmine walk, the smell is intoxicating in the middle of summer and it immediately takes me elsewhere. Then heading up the bamboo walkway to the little Ting Pavilion, I imagine I am in China. Of course, this is just my own made-up fantasy version, but it is a nice place to go.

Chinese Scholars’ Garden in Hamilton Gardens.

Absorb some culture at Frankton Market

Commerce Street, Frankton, Hamilton

As a Polynesian person, Frankton Market is a place I can go and feel at home. I love the smells of food and the stalls of the beautiful people, the booming sounds of the music that I know, the sounds of languages I am familiar with and experiencing the joy of all the cultures ‘being’ community. It reminds me of how proud I am to be who I am and that I belong.

Customers and stallholders chatting.

Cheese scones from Koko Café

207 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

This has become my little place of food and coffee refuge. I love that I can go in and that there’s space for me to feel relaxed and have some great hearty food. Beautiful cheese scones and even vegan sweet treats if I feel like them. But the thing I love best here are the S’mores. 

The entrance to Koko Cafe.

Fush & Chups in the gardens

33 Brookfield Street, Hamilton East

Best fish and chips this side of the awa (river) is definitely Fush & Chups on the corner of Brookfield and Grey Street. A two-minute drive to the Hamilton Gardens and a quick walk to the grassy bank overlooking Turtle Lake.

Fish and chips on the grass.

Tongue of the Dog

14 Victoria Street, Hamilton Central

This giant, 8-metre sculpture by Michael Parekowhai on Victoria Street was installed by the Mesh Sculpture Trust. What’s awesome is that it links to the creation legend of our awa (river), the Waikato, and the legend of our maunga (mountains), the siblings Tongariro and Taupiri. It’s an enchanting story about a servant dog which cuts a pathway for the healing waters of Tongariro to reach an ailing Taupiri. The sculpture’s tongue of water is the symbolic tongue of this dog. I see this sculpture every day so it’s a part of my life. I’m just so pleased that we have a Michael Parekowhai of that stature in Hamilton!

Extreme close up of Tongue of the Dog in Hamilton.

The OG Duck Island Ice Cream

300A Grey Street, Hamilton East

My favourite is the Ham. East Duck Island on the corner of Cook Street and Grey Street, because that was the OG. Also, you can take your ice cream across the street and sit in Steele Park, which is a bit like a village green in England. This was where my kids romped when we first shifted here from Tokoroa, so there are fond memories for me there.

The inside of the Duck Island store.

Celebrate Te Awa - Waikato River

Ngaruawahia in the north to Karapiro in the south

As a supporter of te ao Māori, I celebrate the river as my ancient ancestors that live on today. The river goes all the way from the maunga (mountains) of Tuwharetoa to here. It connects a whole lot of people and it’s beautiful. I appreciate that we can walk alongside her. I’ll often just look at the water moving and sing little songs in my head like ‘Waikato Te Awa’ and pay my respects. Sitting on the banks of the river I find is a good place for contemplation.

The Waikato River.

Meet cool creatives in Lovegrove Lane

394 Grey Street, Hamilton East

This little lane is packed with cool creatives, GG’s cafe, Framing House and Sun Salute Yoga, and as well a place that makes glass pipes.... There’s a florist and even an archaeologist, too. Sometimes they have little lane festivals or exhibitions. I don’t go there often, but when I do, I’m quite proud of it being in my Hamilton East neighbourhood. 

Lovegrove Lane in Hamilton.

Tour the collections at Waikato Museum

1 Grantham Street, Hamilton Central

It’s not widely known, but you can actually book a tour of the Waikato Museum Collections with one of us four curators. I lead visual art tours, and we also have curators for social history, science and tangata whenua. My tour will take you through this vast storage area where you can see paintings, drawings and sculptures among the thousands of taonga. There are Colin McCahons and Ralph Hoteres and Toi Te Rito Maihi works. We also have a large collection of Pacific and Oceanic taonga. People always love to see the large collection storage room with gigantic sculptural works by artists like Chris Booth, Dion Hitchens and Andrea du Chatenier. 

Inside the Waikato Museum.