Huakina opens new pathways for prisoners
PĀNUI PĀPĀHO MEDIA RELEASE: The Learning Connexion
3 October 2019
In te reo Māori, Huakina means “to open”. For prisoners in Aotearoa New Zealand, art can be a means of opening up new forms of expression and a pathway back to a life on the outside.
An innovative new exhibition curated by The Learning Connexion School of Creativity and Art in conjunction with Expressions Whirinaki will explore that idea. Featuring art by prisoner and guest artists, Huakina – to open – is a rare opportunity to view work made by prisoner artists from around New Zealand alongside well-known guest artists, including John Walsh, Wi Taepa, Nigel Brown, Shane Hansen, Dale Copeland, Sean Duffell, Flox, Chris Ulutupu and more.
Contemporary Māori artist Darcy Nicholas says: “The process of creating or viewing art can be a healing process, or it can create bridges of understanding between wide gaps that may exist between cultures, individuals or throughout vast histories of time.”
All artists received an identical wooden box to respond to, each exploring the limits of their own creative potential. The resulting works are expressive and original, shining a light on prison art in New Zealand.
Opening up new paths of expression
Darcy Nicholas says his own experience with prisoners has showed him that art is a hugely important way to open up new paths of expression.
“Every individual has something important to say to the world,” Darcy says. “We like to remember the things we love, or the experiences that play an important part in our lives. Some of our experiences result in tragedy and others express the simple joy of life. We all experience both but in the end, the journey of creating art can give you the strength, knowledge and unique experience that can enable you to continue to enjoy life.”
The exhibition features around 120 works, in a huge variety of styles and mediums. While many feature flora, fauna and Māori motifs, some take the concept of openings literally. One box has a sculptured wooden fist bursting through the top, while the other hand grasps for freedom from the side.
Seeing the artwork of prisoners is striking because it reminds us of the freedom we take for granted but also of the walls we often create for ourselves, Darcy says.
“I learned over the years that my greatest obstacle was myself and the walls I built around me,” he says. “We are all prisoners to some extent and my art and the life I have lived has given me the freedom to think on a global scale and to create, and to value my own life and respect the life of all those people in New Zealand and around the world who have been part of my life.”
Students from 14 prisons participated and had 12 weeks to create a piece of artwork especially for this exhibition. Sharon Hall, Restricted Programmes Coordinator from The Learning Connexion, says: “It’s a great opportunity for students to extend their creative practice by responding to a brief.”
The exhibition artworks will be available to purchase via Trade Me auctions, with proceeds going to Victim Support.
“Creativity programmes in prisons help to build essential life skills, expand forms of communication and help provide pathways to successful rehabilitation,” Sharon says.
“We find through achieving an NZQA qualification in Creativity, our Corrections students gain many valuable skills for their future, including creative techniques, problem-solving, commitment, focus and confidence.”
While the formal education is hugely beneficial, the main thrust of TLC’s Creativity programme is to build life skills and open new forms of communication. “We believe art opens doors, and helps the prisoners gain confidence and realise their potential.”
Huakina runs until 1 December at Expressions Whirinaki, 836 Fergusson Drive, Upper Hutt. It is open every day from 9am to 4pm.