Places in my mind, places of the heart

December 1, 2021

Two teenage high-school students have taken top prizes in the IHC Art Awards 2021 with works that give voice to their deepest feelings.

Danni-Lee Kokiri, 18, from Lower Hutt, won first place in the IHC Art Awards for 2021 and a $5000 prize for her mystical painting The Chakra Forest. Interviewed after her win, the Taita College student said the trees made her want to fly over them.

“My picture The Chakra Forest is my depiction of a scene from my favourite anime, Naruto. It has a spiritual energy that makes me feel like I’m actually in the Chakra Forest when I get up close to it,” Danni-Lee said in her artist statement.

In the Netflix anime series the orphan Naruto, guided by his spirit demon, learns to harness his powers as a ninja. 

Lily Reardon, 15, a student at Papanui High School in Christchurch, won the Youth Award with a pen and watercolour drawing, My Mind, that illustrated the anxious thoughts racing through her mind at school. This was the first year the IHC Youth Award has been presented.

“Form time is my least favourite time at school. This picture represents my mind during this time, feeling calm (blue) and anxious (red). I have included some of my favourite things to help associate good thoughts with form time,” Lily said, describing her work.

Since 2004, the IHC Art Awards have given voice to thousands of artists with intellectual disabilities in New Zealand, many of whom struggle to express themselves in other ways. This year 356 artists entered the competition.

Deshan Walallavita from Hamilton won second prize of $3000 for his acrylic painting, Friesian Cow.

Emma White from Hamilton came third with her acrylic painting, Portrait of Amy Winehouse. She won $2000. Matthew Tonkin from Auckland won the L’affare People’s Choice Award and a prize of $2000 for his screen print Aeroplane after receiving more than 4500 votes.

“This was another year of incredible art,” says IHC General Manager of Programmes Janine Stewart. “I’ve been involved with the awards since their establishment in 2004 and every year there’s something new, with an increase in alternative mediums this time around.”

The winners of the IHC Art Awards are selected by a judging panel of high-profile New Zealand artists. This year’s judges, Judy Darragh ONZM, Paul Hartigan and Otis Frizzell, completed the judging online due to the nationwide lockdown.

This was the second time the awards gala night had been cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions. The top 85 artworks were exhibited at the IHC Art Awards Pop-up Gallery at 69 Willis Street, Wellington. Many of the artworks were auctioned via Trade Me, with 100 percent of the sale price going directly to the artists.

The IHC Art Awards are open to New Zealanders aged 13 and over with an intellectual disability regardless of whether they use IHC, IDEA Services or Choices NZ services.

“IHC would like to say a huge thank you to our major sponsors, the Holdsworth Charitable Trust and William Robbins,” says Janine. “We’d also like to thank L’affare for sponsoring the L’affare People’s Choice Award and all those who went online to vote or buy a piece of extraordinary art.

“Finally, thanks and congratulations to all the talented artists, and their supporters, from across the country who submitted artwork covering everything from sculptures, installations and textile art to painting and drawing.”

Caption 1: Taita College student Danni-Lee Kokiri has taken home the top prize of $5000 in the national IHC Art Awards. Photograph: Monique Ford/Stuff

Caption 2: Danni-Lee’s winning painting, The Chakra Forest, was inspired by her favourite anime, Naruto.