A Māori artist who painted a tribute wall to the late musician Prince has received a personal invitation to the official memorial service in August.
Graham Hoete – also known as Mr G – said he felt inspired to honour Prince by crafting a massive wall mural in Sydney.
After the image went viral, he travelled to Minesotta and painted another 8m mural on a wall in Prince’s hometown Chanhassen, which was formally unveiled by the city’s mayor late last week.
Mr G said he only painted people who inspired him, and Prince was a creative genius so he wanted to pay tribute to him through his art.
He took a picture of the ‘purple rain’ themed mural, posted it to Facebook and it was shared and reshared by Prince’s mourners around the globe.
“Yeah, it was pretty crazy, man. I think it was mostly due to the fact that he had just passed.”
Among the messages was an invitation to Prince’s hometown in Minesotta.
“I spoke to my wife about it for a week and I thought, ‘yeah, I am going to cruise over there and do one’. I thought it will be an honour to do one in his home town and dedicate it to his family and the city of Chanhassan, where he was brought up. So I put another call out on Facebook to see if anyone could help me with some walls, because that was the main thing I really needed. I needed a wall.”
Mr G presented the gift of the US mural in te reo Māori and carried out a one-man haka to one of his musical legends in front of thousands of Minesotta locals.
During the presentation he was passed a note from Prince’s brother.
“He said on behalf of him and the entire family he’d just like to thank you for the beautiful mural that you’ve painted, our hearts are very touched by it. They were so moved and impacted by the fact that I’d travelled halfway around the world to do something like that for them, and he said ‘I want your’s and your wife’s details, I’d like to invite you to the official memorial’.”
Prince’s memorial won’t be till August, and Mr G said it was an invitation that was still difficult to comprehend.
“Yeah man, I was like ‘holy far out, I think this is the one where like Stevie Wonder is going to be there’. Yeah, it’s invite only.”
Just weeks before the Prince experience, Mr G found a wall to pay tribute to basketballer Steven Adams.
“I thought, well, I might just pop over to Oklahoma to do a painting of the bro, just to let him know that all of Aotearoa is behind him.”
The Adams mural also went far and wide, and he became the subject of dozens and dozens of television news reports, but it was the Prince mural that put the boy from Mōtītī Island on the map.
His mother Kathy Hoete remembered him drawing Star Wars pictures when he was five.
“From small beginnings really, he started off on his own and trying to get out in that big world by himself. And he’s finally getting there, he’s done us proud.”
Father Kereama Hoete, who still lives on Mōtītī Island, said it had been hard to keep up with all the media attention his son had been receiving, and said for a moment they were a bit concerned for him.
“We were just going to our daughter’s place and the phone just keep ringing and we got a bit worried, my wife and I. We thought he might need a bit of support but he got more support over there than us. We’re just so happy for him.”
Mr G is already moving onto his next mural, which will be a painting of silver screen legend Joan Crawford.