In Aotearoa, Māori are significantly over-represented in the prison population and underlying themes behind this include a lack of understanding around identity, heritage, tikanga, whakapapa and kawa. Through their venture, Soldiers Rd, Taaniko and her sister Vienna are working to change this.
Taaniko and Vienna originally founded Soldiers Rd Portraits in 2013, using modern media, props and photography to recreate vintage style Māori portraits. They started to notice the profound and positive effect on men, women, children and whanau of all cultures and backgrounds, but most particularly Māori, and wondered if it might have an impact on people in prisons. They have since partnered with NZ Corrections in a ground breaking pilot which aims to transform prisoner cultural identity and self perception as an innovative way to approach prison recidivism rates.
Key steps in the journey
Inspired by a visit to the Museum of the Native American in New York City, Taaniko created Soldiers Rd Portraits in 2013 with her sister Vienna Nordstrom.
From the thousands of portraits Taaniko and Vienna had taken, the noticed a profound and positive effect on men, women, children and whanau of all cultures and backgrounds, but most particularly Māori. They became increasingly aware of the high proportion of Māori in New Zealand prisons, and wondered if they could help to change this.
Taaniko came through our Live the Dream programme to further develop and refine the venture, and graduated in 2016. Since the programme they partnered with NZ's Department of Corrections to run a small scale pilot working with inmates to re-connect them with their culture and identity. The early-stage impact was signifiant, and they are now working to build on the pilot.