‘Learning Your Stripes’ by Regan Gentry was initiated by the Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board as part of a wider programme of commemorations related to Papatoetoe’s 150th anniversary.
The opportunity’s brief called for an artist-led transformation of three adjoining sites , including the Papatoetoe Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association (RSA), Papatoetoe War Memorial Library and Burnside Park.
New Zealand artist Regan Gentry’s concept was selected because it: encompassed both the area’s natural and cultural history; would likely be resonant with Papatoetoe’s contemporary communities; had the potential to re-invigorate and refresh the town centre.
The artist removed boundary walls on Burnside Park and de-cluttered the site to enhance access and to allow for existing features to be better cared for and actively used by the community. Gentry created raised planting beds and paths, and he painted seating that winds around the site with a bright ANZAC Poppy-red, thus linking all elements visually.
Most dramatically, Gentry clad the exterior of the RSA building with a series of powder- coated aluminium stripes in the colours and combinations of military service medal ribbons awarded to the men and women who served New Zealand in various campaigns.
‘Learning Your Stripes’ is the first in a series of Ōtara-Papatoetoe Heritage Trail projects. It responds to local features including a 300-year-old Totara, which is a reminder of Papatoetoe’s origins as a Māori settlement and pre-dates European settlement; a recently planted Norfolk Pine which is a symbol of the character and legacy of the district’s many new arrivals; and the RSA flagpole , which is a commemorative focal point for the community.
In addition, diverse community groups were drawn into the project and contributed to its development, including members of the RSA, Papatoetoe War Memorial Library, Papatoetoe Historical Society, Papatoetoe Business Association and Papatoetoe residents.