Village News

Art from the Heart

Raoul Ketko with one of his portraits

Politics is the inspiration for Waitākere Gardens’ resident artist Raoul Ketko.

Self-confessed political junkie Raoul Ketko has been busy painting politicians since he retired from public service in 1994. As a former private secretary to both National and Labour Cabinet Ministers, and an advisor to Ministers of Social Welfare, Raoul’s been keenly involved in New Zealand politics since the early 1970s.

Now, as a resident at Waitākere Gardens, he likes to chew the fat about politics with two of his closest village friends, and says it was an exciting time watching both the local and US election results unfold, with the election dates only coinciding once every 12 years.

Raoul’s own political skills came to the fore when, at a Minister’s request, Raoul represented New Zealand at a 1986 United Nations conference, where he was invited to be a rapporteur (person who reports on a meeting).

“During a conference session, I broke up a heated argument between Russian and American delegates,” said Raoul. “Later, at the evening cocktail party, I was approached by the Russian delegates who expressed their satisfaction that I had shown total fairness to both sides in the discussion,” he said.

Raoul’s political portraits were particularly pertinent when the New Zealand and American elections coincided closely

The delegates urged Raoul to call on them if he was ever to visit Russia, which he duly did the following year, and he and his wife were treated to a ‘magnificent spread’ of Uzbek cuisine. As they left, the Russian Minister arranged for all the beautiful dishes, bowls, teapots and other items to be sent to their home in Wellington, he recalled.

Raoul has used his artistic talents to create incredible likenesses, not only of past and present politicians, but of his close friends and family, too.

As for sending the politicians a photo of his work, he hasn’t so far. But, with his background in politics, he was interested to learn that former National Minister of Health, Dr Jonathan Coleman, had joined the new Metlifecare Board. It remains to be seen whether Dr Coleman becomes one of Raoul’s next portraits!

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