Exhibition showcases artwork by wāhine


An exhibition showcasing work created by wāhine in the Awe Māreikura programme at Christchurch Women’s Prison will run from 20 July to 18 August at Te Matatiki Toi Ora – The Arts Centre in Christchurch.
Awe Māreikura is a programme created by Christine Harvey, Tōmairangi Taiepa and Jessica Maclean as part of the Creative Arts and Cultural Wellbeing Prison Initiative, supported by Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections.

Me aro koe ki te hā o Hineahuone. Pay heed to the dignity and power of women. Awe Māreikura is about the mana of wāhine and refers to māreikura, the supernatural feminine beings who reside in the uppermost of the 12 heavens, acting as messengers to all realms in creation.

Christine and Jessica have run Awe Māreikura in the prison’s Huritini Unit since early 2023, working with a range of media. This includes visual arts, uku (clay), raranga (weaving) and tukutuku.

For many of the wāhine artists, Awe Māreikura is the first opportunity they have had to create and exhibit mahi toi.

“The women are very proud of what they are producing,” Christine says. “As a tā moko artist, I’ve seen how powerful art can be to empower people. In the Māori world, art is another language and it speaks to many people from all walks of life. I believe that’s what it’s doing for the wāhine on this programme.”

With the exception of the tukutuku installation, the artworks have been created by individuals. The tukutuku installation is a collaborative piece the incorporates poutama and pouhine designs.

The poutama design is often described as a stairway to the heavens and represents growth and achievement. This is complemented by the pouhine design which represents the journey to Rarohenga, the realm of Hine-Nui-te Pō whose role is to safeguard the wellbeing of humanity.

The artworks speak to themes of identity, connection, loss and the mana of wāhine. Traditional and contemporary materials come together in an expression of agency and creativity.

“These wāhine have created powerful works that express their mana motuhake despite the constraints of systemic, historical, societal and other factors,” Jessica Maclean says. “We invite visitors to engage with these artworks not simply as objects but as messages from beyond the wire.”

Read more about the Awe Māreikua programme at Christchurch Women's Prison.

Exhibition showcases artwork by wāhine


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