Prisoners carve a statement in Paihia

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Simon Tanner and David Pattinson at the unveiling of the 2-metre high carving made by Ngawha inmates and representing a thriving Paihia.
Simon Tanner and David Pattinson at the unveiling of the 2-metre high carving made by Ngawha inmates and representing a thriving Paihia.

A new carving featuring multiple koru designs has been unveiled at a dawn ceremony in Paihia.

The carving, signifying a place mark (pou), will rest at the edge of the village green.

The 2m laminated carving unveiled yesterday is a replica of the Trustpower National Community Award presented to Focus Paihia as Supreme Winner of the Trustpower Community Awards in 2015.

The original miniature trophy was designed by artist carver Owen Mapp who gave permission to prisoners in the whakairo programme at the Northland Regional Corrections Facility (NRCF) - also known as Ngawha Prison - to copy his design.

"The carving symbolises Paihia and the Bay of Islands' thriving community spirit," said Focus Paihia co-ordinator Tiffany Holland.

Four carvers were involved in creating the pou: two senior carvers who were mentors and two junior or learner carvers participating in the NZQA carving programme at Ngawha Prison.

It is part of the overall cultural and artistic programme operating at Corrections facilities throughout New Zealand under the auspices of Te Wananga O Aotearoa.

David Pattinson, Prison Director at Ngawha, said while there has been a carving course at the jail for 10 years, the overall arts programme was introduced just nine months ago.

"It is positive reinforcement and a great dimension to allow prisoners to see that they do have a skill," he said.

Prisoner art work is now being commissioned and some pieces have been donated to charities for fundraising.

Under the umbrella of Art Access (a charity that facilitates arts to support rehabilitation), inmates at Ngawha have also been studying and performing traditional live theatre for the past 14 months.

"It's called Shakespeare Behind Bars," said Simon Tanner, assistant director at NRCF.

"Prisoners have gone on stage as a group and have performed some of the famous lines from Hamlet."

Inmates have been involved in constructing the new Waitangi Mountain Bike Park which is due to open on October 16.

The prison has provided many of the plants and carvings dotted along the initial 14km of track, from its horticultural and arts programmes.

Mr Pattinson said he was keen to develop a stronger relationship between local communities and the prison.

"We can be seen as a provider to the community as an investment, as a port of call for the community, and the prison's contribution to Paihia is an example."

- Northern Advocate

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