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A conversation with Zakea Page


The Wellington Student Who Designed the Medals for the next Winter Youth Olympic Games

Zakea is a Wellington-based artist currently studying at Massey University. Born in England to international teachers, he grew up both here and in Vietnam, China, Kuwait and Bangladesh before coming back to NZ. He says his favourite place in Aotearoa is the Wellington waterfront, “it’s awesome for skating or running to let off steam”.

Recently, Zakea was named as the winner of a global competition to come up with the design for the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games official medals. Chosen from nearly 300 entries across 60 nations, this is a huge achievement for such a young man who describes himself as having “very little design experience”. We caught up for a Sunday afternoon coffee at Raglan Roast to discuss the meaning behind his design and what this selection means to him.

Render: Supplied | Portrait: @hxlmes_

Initital concepts from Zakea's sketchbook.

How do you spend your days usually?
I have classes on weekdays and balance my time between school work and my own art projects, then I’ll normally hit the gym in the evenings. It’s always slightly chaotic; partly because I’m very busy and partly because I’m still working out this whole being an adult thing. I’m getting there…

Tell us about your background/design experience.
I have very little design experience; I’m predominantly a multidisciplinary artist including performance art, street art, painting and VR, but I flirt with design from time to time. I also have a performing arts practice that brings sport and art together using athletic skill to paint large works. I have found that sports and art are very similar, you use the same part of your brain for both and utilise your body and mind together.

Zakea's winning design is titled 'Beauty in Diversity'.

How did you find out about the design competition for the new Winter Youth Olympic Games medal?
As a passionate hockey player the dream was always an Olympic gold medal for New Zealand. Last year I found my time divided between art and hockey and I was unable to put my best effort into either discipline, it was clear to me that the performance aspect of my work was something that needed to be explored more. I still follow what is happening in the Olympic world and found out about this incredible opportunity online—I thought it was a great opportunity to keep my Olympic dream alive and went for it.

What is the meaning behind the title of your design, Beauty in Diversity?
The design is inspired by Maya Angelou’s quote, “In diversity there is beauty”. When different cultures come together they bring with them rich traditions, new food, amazing languages and unique and varied perspectives. For me this is the juicy stuff that makes humanity so special, and that quote brings it home beautifully. Maya Angelou's words reflect my belief and the Olympic Values—that we are strongest in unity.

You’re the first person in New Zealand history to design an Olympic medal, what does this mean to you?
Personally it’s a dream come true but more importantly I hope it serves as a reminder that we are strongest in unity, strongest when we are together and accepting and welcoming of different cultures. We all have individual truths, but if we accept these differences, the things we can achieve together are beautiful.

Describe your design process, and how long it took from concept to final render.
This one took two years; it was originally for the Buenos Aires games before I opted for a different design. Although I didn’t win that year I knew the Youth Olympics had a similar competition so I worked on this design for the following couple of years. My friend Ryan Arden rendered it for me and the rest is history.

Your prize includes a trip to the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne (2020), what are you most looking forward to?
I’m really excited to meet some amazing people. At any games you are surrounded by world-class individuals and that’s so exciting because excellence is contagious. I am also in talks to see how else I can be involved in the games, I’m looking forward to being a part of it all and witnessing the games in action.

What’s next?
I’m putting together a project for the Lausanne Games which is a live performance art painting of the Games Olympic Mascot; it will be painted with a hockey stick and ball soaked in Chinese ink. I’m also working on a project for TVNZ and have a few upcoming solo exhibitions, and in the meantime I will attempt to pass uni too. I’ve got this!

Zakea Page is a visual and performance artist based in Wellington.
You can view more of his work on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.