adamgifford
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  Albert Wendt, painter of words
Published NZ Herald November 29, 2008

On the front of Albert Wendt's Ponsonby house is a plaque saying it was once the home of Michael Joseph Savage, before he became the first Labour Prime Minister. In years to come there may be another plaque identifying it as a home for the premier Samoan novelist of his generation.

It probably wouldn't add the term "painter", but that is how Wendt is increasingly choosing to occupy his time.

"I used to do lot of art as a boy in Samoa, but I was from a poor family so it was just pencil drawings and copying the comics," he says.

Boarding at New Plymouth Boys High School in the 1950s, he was streamed away from the art option, but picked it up at Ardmore Teachers College in 1958. "I was in the same class as Selwyn Muru and Sandy Adsett. I did art for a few years, taught it, but when I went to university I concentrated on writing."

In 2000, the urge came upon him to return to the visual arts. "I went up to the French Art Workshop [on Ponsonby Rd] and bought $300 worth of pencils and crayons and paper," he says. Since then he has been learning to paint with acrylics, something that was barely around in the 1960s. "In many ways I am younger than most of the younger generation of Pacific artists."

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