Kōrero Pono, a project launched by advocacy group JustSpeak, is aimed at challenging the stigma faced by people who have been affected by the criminal justice system. Through this project, JustSpeak seeks to build awareness of the collateral consequences of imprisonment on people, whānau and communities.
The exhibition will feature sixteen portraits of storytellers by a diverse group of artists and photographers from around Aotearoa, including Marianne Muggeridge, Sophia Minson, Xoe Hall and John Crawford. The portraits will be displayed alongside excerpts from interviews with the storytellers conducted by JustSpeak staff and volunteers.
“At a time when the Government is reckoning with the failures of the criminal justice system to prevent more harm, we think it’s crucial that the voices of people with first hand experience of this system are heard”, said JustSpeak Director Tania Sawicki Mead.
“JustSpeak has connected storytellers with artists and photographers to share these true stories that are largely excluded from public discourse.
“By giving voice to to those most affected, and by chaperoning their stories into the public sphere, we hope to bridge the gap between ‘them’ and ‘us’, and show how everyone is worthy of care, and everyone has a story worth hearing.
“The stories of Kōrero Pono make clear that locking more people up for longer is not helping to reduce harm in our communities. In many cases it is making things worse by entrenching cycles of violence and hardship, and creating further barriers to accessing health and rehabilitation services.
“We can hear from these stories that the mass incarceration of Māori whānau, and the pipeline from state care to prison, have created a legacy of hurt and harm spanning many generations.
"77% of people currently in prison are themselves victims of violence. Our storytellers share with us in their own words how important it is that we invest in solutions that help to resolve harm, rather than believing that punishment will provide accountability.
“These stories speak to the long term consequences of prison on family members, on job prospects, and our collective failure to address the drivers of harm such as family violence, drug and alcohol addiction, and mental distress.
“We are heartened to see current progress towards evidence-based change in our justice system, and the stories in this exhibition confirm that as a community, we can do so much better. We want and need a society based on compassion and fairness.
The exhibition will be online at www.justspeak.org/koreropono and at Potocki Paterson Gallery, Level 1, 41 Dixon St, Wellington, from the 16th - 26th October. Opening times will vary, please check the website for further details.