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.