Wall of memory for Bea Yates

Taumata Soloman alongside his depiction of Bea Yates.


The memory of the late Beatrice Yates, a captivating figure in Rotorua, has been splendidly captured on a shop wall.

In previous eras, this kuia of Te Arawa who lived harmoniously with music in her soul and education in her heart, would have been committed to canvas.

It is not too late.

Nor would it be inappropriate.

Despite block patterns of indentation on a largely neglected wall to the west of Hinemoa St not frequently used, Taumata Soloman’s portrait is striking.

It lightens at this time of the year as the sun retreats in the late afternoon.

The shadow under the eaves lifts by the day, lending enchantment and wairua.

Looking out, almost on the verge of falling through, Bea Yates smiles that beatific smile for which she was well known. To the left of her face is a trail of Te Arawa red colouring.

It tails, or should we say, flows with a fluidity of an artist at ease with his work. Aunt Bea is depicted with her red scarf.

Taumata says the work took him four days over two weeks. Between times, he is head of department (Maori) at Rotorua Lakes High School.

Previously, he had worked from 2007 to 2015 at Western Heights High school teaching te reo.

Like many of his race, art in whatever manifestation comes easy to him.

What inspired his image”

“The inspiration was HER,” Tau says. “She gave her heart and soul to Te Arawa and to Rotorua but more so to our tamariki and it was only fitting that she be chosen as a Te Arawa hero for this mural that the Aronui arts Festival wanted.”

Aunt Bea (possibly a la Aunt Bea on The Andy Griffiths Show decades ago) as she was known entertained many thousands in Rotorua at such leading institutions as Te Aka Mauri, the public library.

He knew Bea personally. They were colleagues at Lakes High. “She was a teacher for many years and would catch up every now and again at kura,” Tau recalls.

Tau says he has not painted with a brush. His render on Hinemoa Street is by can, but we asked how much different is use of can to the brush?

“Totally different; the control required with a can is different to the control required with a paint brush [as they are] two totally different mediums.”

The official unveiling will be held on September 29.

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