Steve Hikaiti has done a lot of bad things in his life, and spent a lot of time in jail – 29 years in and out.
But something happened to him while he was in Mt Eden prison that changed his life forever.
From that point on, he became an artist, and he has been quite successful.
So much so that an Auckland gallery has taken him on and is holding an exhibition for him on Saturday.
Mr Hikaiti says his calling came when he was in Mt Eden prison in 1987.
“I donno if it was a mental breakdown or anything like that, but I felt like I needed to talk to the staff because I thought I was going looney,” he says.
“What happened was this tupuna came through the roof, and just touched me on the nose, and when I woke up the next day I could actually draw his face – the detail.”
But as quickly as that detail came, it was lost again, until recently when he began to draw full time.
He got the bug at school but that landed him in trouble.
“I used to get kicked out because I’d be drawing in the books and on the desk,” he says.
“My mind would not be with the class, it’d be outside the window, day dreaming, creating things in my mind. It was my own safe place.”
Mr Hikaiti is no angel - he has a criminal record for burglary, assault and aggravated robbery, for which he served nine years inside.
He was kicked out of home when he was nine because he was too much trouble.
When he was not in jail, he roamed the streets.
“Jail became home, in a way,” he says.
“Jail was my life, was my home.”
Now his home – and workspace - is an Auckland apartment.
When he is not drawing, he is pacing around waiting for the ideas to flow.
“I don’t know if it is the right process because I’m self-taught.”
His work has struck a chord with the art community. Gallery owner Clayton Smith liked what he saw, and has been showing and selling Mr Hikaiti’s work for four months.
“He is now an active member of society,” says Mr Clayton.
“He is producing beautiful pieces of art and that is his passion, he has found his way through his art.”
Mr Hikaiti’s first series of limited edition prints are now on display in galleries around the North Island, and on Saturday he will have his first exhibition.
“We’re selling a few a week actually so people are actually seeing it, loving it, and want it on their walls."
source: newshub archive