The subjects of this painting are sisters in-law, Taaniko and Vienna Nordstrom, both cultural leaders within the Maori community in New Zealand and the creative minds behind their photography business 'Soldiers Rd Portraits'
ART WITH IMPACT
50% of the profits from the sale of this edition will go towards the social initiative, created by Soldiers Rd, called
'Behind the Wire', working with Maori prison inmates.
Choosing to paint these incredible women for the Archibald I felt was in keeping with both my aesthetic and philosophy. For the past decade I have been inspired primarily by the beauty and earth connection of Polynesian cultures, in particular the strong presence of feminine 'mana' (power).
About Soldier Rd Portraits
Soldiers Rd Portraits is an original concept inspired by turn of the century photographic portraiture of Māori in Aotearoa.
Using modern media, traditional kākahu, props and photography, Soldiers Rd Portraits recreates vintage-style portraits of people today, with a cultural twist, showcasing Māori today in the style of their tupuna (anscestors), and creating spaces for non-Māori to participate in authentic cultural experiences.
Recognised on an international stage in New York City, Berlin, London, France, Mumbai, Australia and all over Aotearoa, sisters-in-law Taaniko and Vienna Nordstrom first created their brand in 2013.
Like many colonised indigenous cultures, Māori are significantly over-represented in the New Zealand prison population and underlying themes behind this include a lack of understanding around cultural identity, heritage, tikanga, whakapapa and kawa.
In 2016 Soldiers Rd partnered with Waikeria Prison in a project to transform prisoner cultural identity and self perception as an innovative way to approach prison recidivism rates for Māori.
The project enabled tāngata mauhere ( prisoners) to reflect on their lives, creating a paradigm shift in the way they saw themselves and their tupuna/whakapapa.(ancestors/tribe) The Soldiers Rd experience gave inmates an opportunity to see themselves differently through a dignified vintage portrait aligned with a letter they wrote to one of their tupuna as a means of reflection and healing. The images revealed the potential of these men while their letters were insightful, inspiring and real.
Since the pilot project in 2016, Soldiers Rd have returned to Te Ao Marama unit to do portraits, and have held 4 exhibitions for the participants, and visiting whanau (family)members inside the prison walls. These sessions were able to provide a visual representation of the internal changes they were making, and served as a reminder of their mana, and their potential.
Soldiers Rd has run this initiative so far with no external funding- and profits from the sale of these prints will contribute to facilitating the continuation of this social initiative.