Waikeria Prison Portraits

For the second year in a row Soldiers Rd has collaborated with Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan at Te Aomarama Maori Focus Unit, Waikeria Prison to provide a portraiture experience to the men in the unit.

In New Zealand Māori are significantly over-represented in the prison population and underlying themes behind this include a lack of understanding around cultural identity, cultural heritage, tikanga, whakapapa and kawa.

Soldiers Rd Portraits is about reconnecting Māori and Pasifika to their cultural identity, heritage and whakapapa through portraiture. It is about creating a paradigm shift in the way rangatahi see themselves and their tupuna/whakapapa historically, currently as well as potentially in the future.

Soldiers Rd Portraits are pleased to partner with Waikeria Prison in this pilot project which aims to transform prisoner cultural identity and self perception as an innovative way to approach prison recidivism rates for Māori. The pilot aims to enable participants to reflect on their lives, past, present and future.

By identifying those with a need to reconnect to their culture, Māori and non-Māori prisoners can restore their cultural identity and see themselves differently through a dignified vintage style portrait aligned with a letter to their tupuna (ancestor) or their 16 year old self.

We especially acknowledge Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan, a creative and inspiring Wahine Toa who is passionate in her mahi with the men of Te Ao Marama Unit. We give credit to Kevin Smith, the Waikeria Prison Director for taking a leap of faith in our proposal and most importantly the 28 men of the Maori Focus Te Ao Marama Unit and their programme facilitators.

We believe these images reveal the incredible potential of these men.

The letters they share are insightful, inspiring and real.

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