Talofa lava and greetings to all. I would like to acknowledge the recipients and those Highly Commended in Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2019, who provide a variety of amazing arts and cultural programmes and initiatives. Congratulations, in particular, to Ruth Ratcliffe (Otago Corrections Facility) and Arrin Clark (Northland Region Corrections Facility), who received the two Corrections awards: the Arts Access Corrections Māui Tikitiki a Taranga Award (Ruth) and the Arts Access Corrections Whai Tikanga Award (Arrin).
A big thank you to everyone who attended and supported the awards ceremony at Parliament, with special mention to Minister Kelvin Davis for hosting this year’s awards and presenting the Arts Access Corrections Whai Tikanga Award. Thanks also to Rachel Leota, National Commissioner at the Department of Corrections, who presented the the Arts Access Corrections Māui Tikitiki a Taranga Award.
Three Highly Commended citations were presented to Nic Scotland (Hawkes Bay Regional Prison), Rue-Jade Morgan and Annah Mac (both Otago Corrections Facility).
Ruth Ratcliffe is an outstanding example of leadership in our sector. Ruth worked with the men in Otago Corrections Facility to present the award-winning Dunedin Fringe Festival show Trouble-D. This show highlighted some innovative ways of community engagement, breaking down barriers for the men to create and perform to a live theatre audience.
Building trust and strong relationships
There are some similarities between Ruth’s drama group and Beth Hill’s Redemption Performing Arts programme in Northland Region Corrections Facility, and the need for consistency over a long period of time. Building trust and developing strong relationships is fundamental to a successful programme in Corrections facilities: it takes time to create a safe space for prisoners and to build their confidence.
Interestingly, the recipient and Highly Commended individuals in the Arts Access Corrections Māui Tikitiki a Taranga Award are all women, who have invested a great deal in building relationships with participants in their art programmes over a long time.
I’ve been reflecting on statistics that show an increase in female prisoners from 511 women in 2012 to just under 700 in September 2019, and the importance of having strong female role models to guide their rehabilitation.
I recently heard well-known lawyer Moana Jackson speak in a discussion after a performance of the play Cellfish in Wellington. He highlighted the connection between Māori incarceration, including the increased Māori female prison population, with colonisation.
"One of the most distressing parts of what is happening with the prison population is the high rate of imprisonment of Māori women,” he told the audience.
Te Putanga Toi Awards is one way to promote the work of these strong female Arts in Corrections leaders but I believe we need to do much more to develop female leadership in this sector.
I’ve been working with my predecessor, Jacqui Moyes, on her new pilot project, Home Ground, a one-year creativity and wellbeing initiative for women who have experienced incarceration or are engaged in the justice system, and for artists.
This initiative is designed so women and artists can co-create an artistic response to the current issues women and whānau face during the experience of incarceration and reintegration back into the community.
As Jacqui says, women need ongoing support from when they are in prison to when they are back in the community. Home Ground creates a space for women to reflect on what their lived experience can offer, and supports them to work towards surrounding themselves and their whānau with a strong creative community.
Based on her many years’ experience of working with women in prisons, Jacqui believes in the power of the creative process to support self-reflection and build self-esteem.
Home Ground will continue through to May 2020 and I believe that more women-focused arts programmes will develop because of this project. Watch this space!
I also want to acknowledge my colleague, Claire Noble, who is leaving Arts Access Aotearoa on 20 September. Whenever I meet people from the Arts For All Network, their faces light up and they talk about how supportive and enthusiastic Claire has been. She is another strong female leader and advocate for the importance of everyone having access to the arts.
Meets and greets
- Senior Sergeant Stuart Taylforth, with whom I discussed an art competition he is organising for the Wellington Police District Custody Unit.
- Rimutaka Prison, where I met Principal Learning and Rehabilitation Officers Aaron Jeffs and Alison Frost to discuss this year’s variety Christmas concert.
- Wellington City Council, where I met arts advisors to discuss ways they may be able to support the professionalisation of the Arts in Corrections sector.
- Performing Arts and Justice Symposium from 5 to 6 September at Massey University, Auckland, where Arts Access Aotearoa facilitated a panel discussion on how artists working in prisons can best navigate the creative process.
- An Arts in Corrections Network meeting, held in Wellington on 12 September (the day after Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards) and including three guest presenters and a discussion on what the arts are. This was supported through the Arts Foundation’s Arts Month promotion.
There are several Arts in Corrections events coming up and these are highlighted in the Updates column of the Arts Access in Corrections e-newsletter, distributed once every two months. If you would like to discuss and promote your Arts in Corrections projects, please email me. To learn more about the Arts in Corrections Advisory Service, please visit Arts Access Aotearoa’s website.
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