For the women in Arohata Prison’s high security unit Ahuru Mowai, the mural ‘A Queen Born of Greatness, He Kākano Ahau’ was a chance to tell their story.

Led by one talented artist, eight women worked to complete two murals depicting a female Māori warrior.

The mural at Arohata Prison mid-way through progress.“The mural represents the journey with the erupting volcano behind signifying the past. She is caught between a rock and a hard place. Her uru (hair) is the awa (river) flowing towards the snow mountain cleansing her of her struggles and finally onto greener pastures. The orange, purple, and green koru patterns are designed to represent the steps we take in life from past, present, and future,” explains the artist.

Principal Corrections Officer Daniel Trick helped facilitate the project and says although the idea came from one of the women, it speaks to all the women in the unit.

“Previously there was a lot of tagging in the unit, especially in the yard. One of them came to me with the idea to soften the space and give it some colour. After seeing the initial sketches for the mural, I was really impressed," says Daniel. "From there I spoke to the Prison Director and engaged local iwi and they were all blown away.

"We spoke to other women from the unit explaining what the mural meant, they agreed it represents a large amount their stories and journey. We’ve had no tagging since its completion showing that others respect the work and the effort that went into it.”

Daniel says the women are proud of what they’ve accomplished.

“Every time they use the yard, they see their completed work and what they’ve achieved.”

The finished mural
A second mural depicts the wahine sitting on a strong foundation, the coloured stairs represent steps to reaching full potential, kowhai tree represents reaping the fruits of life, the rays of sunshine represent our values and the wahine in both murals are sisters and represent sisterhood in the unit.