Māori artist's talent astonishes world famous superstars

By Taiha Molyneux

World famous stars are standing up and taking notice of a talented Māori artist’s portraits.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, blockbuster movie and wrestling superstar is the most recent celebrity in awe of the talent of Jason Manukau of Tainui and Ngāti Mahuta descent.

After learning The Rock would be filming in Australia, Jason was encouraged by a friend to complete a portrait for the well known celebrity.  

The result of his effort was a stunning portrait not only of The Rock but also of his father Rocky Johnson a well-known professional wrestler in the 70‘s and 80’s, as well as his grandfather, yet another talented wrestler Peter Maivia.

Through social media and supportive friends who had connections in the right places and were keen to help him get his talent recognised, The Rock finally got a glimpse of Jason’s creation courtesy of his stunt double and agreed to meet up with Jason to take a closer look at his portrait.

Jason says, “I flew up to the Gold Coast for the day with my cousin Kai who organised all the flights, and was driven to Worlds Gym in Ashmore by my friend Willie and his daughter Ataahua in his 63 Chevy Impala.”

The significance of the gift Jason was about to offer to the star wasn’t truly recognised until he spoke to The Rock face to face, “When he saw the painting he was blown away, probably more so because it happened to be the anniversary of his Grandfathers passing the day prior. So it was very sentimental and I was so humbled to be able to present something meaningful to him.”

Jason says, “We spent close to 20 minutes talking and taking photos. He was so down to earth and easy going it was like talking to one of the bros that you've known forever.”

After Dwayne Johnson shared the image of himself and Jason with the portrait on his own Facebook page it went viral receiving over half a million likes and over 9 thousand shares. On the post the superstar wrote, "Always appreciate meeting fans and the awesome gifts they bring…Jason Manukau, honors two WWE HALL OF FAMERS and my roots. My dad, the legendary dropkick artist, Rocky "Soulman" Johnson. Made history by becoming the 1st Black WWE Tag Team Champions (w/ Tony Atlas). My grandfather, the great High Chief of Samoa, Peter Maivia. Champion and trained in England as a "catch wrestler" and widely considered one of the toughest men to ever step foot in the squared circle. These great champions paved our way." 

Other stars privy to Jason’s talent include rap star, The Game, Tyga, Jason Derulo and Jared Warea Hargreaves.

Jason says he has had a lot of inspiration around him "Growing up in Aotearoa and in Katikati we were lucky with having so many talented people, from the All Blacks to singers like Che Fu, Tiki Taane, Artists like OD, Phat 1 etc to the whanau and bros you grow up with."

At the moment Jason holds down a full time job as a stockpicker in a Warehouse in Melbourne while he studies part time and has been an airbrush artist for just two years.

He says he hopes to become a full time artist in the near future but overall his biggest goal is to set an example for the next generation and prove that with hard work and the right support you can go a long way. 

Here are some images of Jason with celebrities he has gifted portraits.

Jason Manukau and The Game Jason Manukau and Jason DeRulo

Jason Manukau and TygaJason Manukau and Jared Warea Hargreaves