“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.” - Leonardo Da Vinci

A group of prisoners from Waikeria Prison would certainly agree with Da Vinci’s sentiments after their recent collaboration on a series of paintings set to be displayed later this month.

As part of the Better Public Services Flagship Project in Hamilton the Department of Corrections, Police, Courts and Child, Youth and Family have been working on a number of collaborative initiatives aimed at reducing re-offending. One such initiative Message from Within – The Journey from Dark to Light will launch on Monday 28 July. Twelve paintings have been created by prisoners at Waikeria Prison, illustrating their personal journey, as part of the initiative.

In a very real case of art imitating life, the paintings depict the consequences of their own life choices and the ability they have to change.

Working alongside Arts Access award winning Art Tutor, Ann Byford, the men have developed pieces that reflect the choices they have made in their pasts through to their hopes for the future. The artists hope to inspire the viewer to reflect on their own journey in life.

The paintings will be displayed around the various participating government agency facilities such as in the Police cells, Community Corrections offices, and Court foyers which will offer frontline staff a good talking point to share experiences and knowledge, or simply a point of personal reflection to support the fantastic engagement already taking place with offenders in their care.

The artists themselves have been hugely enthusiastic about the project, with one prisoner highlighting how the process helped him.

“It’s like they say ‘you’ve got to want to change,' and I think that is true. Change starts from within. Just the process behind these paintings, the reflection, it has made me question my own behaviour, my own beliefs, and I know I don’t want to be on that same path that I came in here on so I have to change that path myself.”

Waikeria Prison Manager, Kevin Smith, recognises the importance of programmes like this.

“Rehabilitative arts programmes are so valuable; through the creative process offenders develop skills in teamwork, patience and goal setting. For many offenders, it can be the first time they’ve produced anything positive in their lives.”

The high impact paintings engage the viewer and prompt them to think about the consequences of crime and the affect on whanau and loved ones. The aim is for the artwork to have a constructive influence for each site with all agencies working towards the reduction of crime and re-offending. Each site will also have a booklet accompanying the artwork which contains further details.

For more information about this initiative or any of the projects under Better Public Services Flagship Project, please contact:

Rowan Balloch - District Manager Waikato Probation, Corrections Services
(07) 848 6095 Extn 37095
rowan.balloch@corrections.govt.nz