Ka Puta Ka Ora, a dedicated exhibition space in the reception area of Ara Poutama Aotearoa’s national office in Mayfair House, Wellington was designed to showcase taonga created by men and women in prisons across Aotearoa. It was included as part of the refurbishment of the building that re-opened in August 2021.
Currently showing is an exhibition of mixed media self-portraits that explore the idea of “suspended identities”.
Called Tuakiri Kua Whakatarewatia: Suspended Identities, the exhibition includes work by 11 men at Hawkes Bay Regional Prison and explores the idea of two identities: the identity inside the wire and outside the wire.
Under the guidance of the prison’s Education Tutor Gilli Marshall, the artists were presented with a quote as a starting point. It was taken from “Building Image: the Presentation of Self” by Thomas J. Schmid and Richard S. Jones.
“A prisoner’s suspension of his pre-prison identity, of course, is never absolute, and the separation between his suspended identity and his prison identity is never complete.”
Gilli says, “I was impressed and immensely proud of the men and the effort they put into the creation of these pieces as it was a brief that required the tane to dig deep into their own sense of identity.”
Sharon Hall, Business Analyst (Visual Display) for Ara Poutama Aotearoa was contracted by the organisation in October 2020 to set up an exhibition space in the reception area. This current exhibition is the fifth in the space.
Sharon, who curated Tuakiri Kua Whakatarewatia: Suspended Identities, says the work is deliberately hung to “float” within the space and enhance the feeling of suspension.
She says that preparing work and presenting it in an exhibition is a valuable opportunity for men and women in prison to showcase their work in a professional setting.
The exhibition space is also a way for Corrections staff to connect to the various prison sites and appreciate the quality of work.
Finally, it’s an opportunity for Corrections’ stakeholders, visitors and the public to see the prisoners’ artistic skills and gain insights into the value of art as a tool to help the rehabilitative process.
The Winds of Change, printed below, is about having the artworks hanging freely so there’s a shift whenever someone passes by. The works move with the breeze and the movements mean that choices and pathways can be made. It’s about personal identity, prison identity and change.
The winds of change
Whakataka te hau ki te uru,
Whakataka tō hau ki te tonga.
Kia makinakina ki uta,
Kia mataratara ki tai.
E hi ake ana te ata kura
he tio, he huka, he hauhunga.
Haumi e! Hui e! Taiki e!
Cease the winds from the east
Cease the winds from the south
Let the breeze blow over the land
Let the breeze blow over the ocean
Let the red-tipped dawn come with sharpen air
A touch of frost, a promise of a glorious day
The exhibition is open to the public until 24 July 2023. Please get in touch with Sharon Hall (E: Sharon.firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions about Ka Puta Ka Ora.