Art and aroha


Ster­ile white walls at the Mo­haka Pl Palmer­ston North youth jus­tice fa­cil­ity, Te Au Rere a te Tonga, are grad­u­ally be­ing painted over with colour­ful mu­rals.

Since 2015, stu­dents from Massey Univer­sity’s Bach­e­lor of Maori Visual Arts have been trans­form­ing blank wall ar­eas with works that com­bine Maori art forms, street art and pop cul­ture.

In the sec­ond year of a pro­ject part­ner­ship, nine first-year stu­dents on Massey Univer­sity’s Toioho ki Apiti BMVA de­gree spent six weeks dur­ing the sec­ond se­mes­ter, re­search­ing and de­sign­ing the mu­rals.

This in­volved meet­ing staff and the young res­i­dents, aged 14 to 17, to brain­storm ideas for the art­works.

They now spend two days a week on mu­rals that brightly dec­o­rate the 30-bed fa­cil­ity’s sally port en­trance­way, cen­tral court­yard, gym­na­sium, whanau court­yard vis­it­ing area and Se­cure Care unit.

Te Au Rere a te Tonga em­ploy­ment co-or­di­na­tor Mike Moses said as un­for­tu­nately the ma­jor­ity of young peo­ple were Maori hav­ing art with kau­papa Maori el­e­ments ‘‘uplifts our space’’.

‘‘Maori and Pasi­fika themed art on our wall spa­ces is some­thing many of our kids can re­late to quite eas­ily.’’

Moses said the pro­ject was un­der­pinned by research, and in the sally port, the in­tro­duc­tion to the cen­tre for all new young peo­ple, the mu­ral makes use of calm­ing colours.

‘‘It’s go­ing to look great when it’s fin­ished.’’

He said if the part­ner­ship can con­tinue for a decade it will not only be a Youth Jus­tice Res­i­dence but also one huge art gallery.

‘‘Ev­ery­thing is a con­ver­sa­tion starter. We want the art to up­lift, mo­ti­vate and com­fort our most vul­ner­a­ble and at-risk youth.’’

The mu­ral that stu­dent Nikau Tonihi is work­ing on con­cerns whaka­papa and lead­er­ship, de­pict­ing a jour­ney from youth through adult­hood to el­der­ship, high­light­ing pos­i­tive be­hav­iours and out­comes.

‘‘It’s about fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of the an­ces­tors and mak­ing them proud,’’ Tonihi said.

Fa­cil­ity youth worker Reweti Arap­ere, Toioho ki Apiti Bach­e­lor and Masters grad­u­ate, said the cen­tre’s young peo­ple im­proved their be­hav­iour be­cause they wanted to be in­volved.

‘‘They want to en­joy lis­ten­ing to mu­sic and paint­ing on the walls.’’


Massey stu­dent artist Nikau Tonihi.

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