Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Iti brushes away his jail time

Activist has painted enough pictures to hold his own exhibition, says son.

TUhoe activist Tame Iti exercising his artistic style in prison with a painting of misty hills and ghostly figures on the cover of New Zealand Geographic magazine. Photo / Brett Phibbs
TUhoe activist Tame Iti exercising his artistic style in prison with a painting of misty hills and ghostly figures on the cover of New Zealand Geographic magazine. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Cover picture of misty hills and ghostly figures.

TUHOE ACTIVIST Tame Iti has been exercising his artistic style in prison, with one of his paintings appearing on the front cover of the latest New Zealand Geographic magazine.

Iti is serving a 2-year sentence in Waikeria Prison near Te Awamutu after being found guilty of firearms offences relating to the 2007 Urewera raids, a decision he plans to appeal at the Supreme Court.

The painting, which was commissioned by New Zealand Geographic, is part of a 40-page feature article on Tuhoe, and depicts the rugged landscape of Te Urewera, including hills surrounded by mist and groups of ghostly figures. He was paid for the work, but his son Wairere would not say how much.

"This work is a validation: Of the whakapapa, the responsibility and the future that Tuhoe have with Te Urewera," Iti told the magazine.

"The figures show how the people have become entwined with the landscape and mist, how their relationship to Te Waonui a Tane [the great forest of Tane] allows them to assert their mana motuhake."

Wairere said Iti had probably done enough paintings since being imprisoned in May to hold his own exhibition.

"He's using his time constructively in prison. He has the time to paint, so he does."

Most of his paintings related to Tuhoe or Te Urewera, and some had a political focus.

His father was in high spirits and preparing for his first parole hearing next February.

"He's a man with a strong will and a sharp mind."

He was part of a Maori focus unit which practised tikanga Maori in prison, and had become a mentor to younger inmates.

Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were found guilty on firearms charges after a major police operation into alleged paramilitary training camps in the Ureweras.

Iti and Kemara were sent to prison while Signer and Bailey were each sentenced to nine months of home detention.

The so-called Urewera Four lost their appeal to the Court of Appeal in October but could appeal to the Supreme Court.

- APNZ

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