Artwork portrays addiction struggles

22:17, Apr 02 2014
Gina Amentuanai
UPHILL BATTLE: Gina Amentuanai’s painting of New Zealand mountains represents her struggle with heroin addiction and self-injury.

Brushstrokes and bright colours express Gina Amentuanai's hopes for a better life.

The Mangere Bridge woman has battled self-injury, suicide attempts and an addiction to heroin.

Now she's sharing her story through three paintings in the Tufuga Arts Trust's latest exhibition, Nga Mea Katoa, which means "all things".

Mosaic by Jordan Brown
INTRICATE ARTWORK: Garden, a ceramic mosaic by Jordan Brown.

The exhibition at Manurewa's Nathan Homestead showcases the work of the people who attend the trust's weekly art group.

The group provides art equipment, classes and social interaction for Maori with mental illness.

Amentuanai says her paintings represent "strength and my struggle".


A mixed-media piece entitled Aniwaniwa i Te Maunga or the Rainbow in the Mountain - the suggestion of colours about my childhood was inspired by a road trip around the North Island.

She had just returned home from Australia and was drawn to the familiar shapes of the mountains.

"They brought back memories and they grabbed me in the heart. I felt like I was home."

The 38-year-old has been drug-free for the past year and says she uses bright colours in her work to convey a sense of joy.

"Everyone needs some hope. Everyone needs to see that you can climb out and fix yourself up and dream of a better future."

The exhibition includes a range of different mediums, including paintings, sculptures, pencil drawings and lino cuts. Members have also collaborated on a series of printed T-shirts and a large installation which depicts the Manukau Harbour and its kaitiaki or guardians.

Occupational therapist Christina Freeman says social interaction is a big part of what makes the group a success.

"There's a lot of encouraging motivation and that ‘get up and go'. Someone might otherwise want to stay at home and lie in bed and they get up and come to the group instead."

The trust uses a prefab off Massey Rd in Mangere as a painting space but is looking to set up a permanent classroom and gallery.

The free exhibition runs until April 20 at Nathan Homestead on Hill Rd in Manurewa. It's open from 9am-5pm weekdays and 9am-4pm on weekends.

Manukau Courier