Regional | Māori

Convicted meth cook turned carver

From prison to the straight and narrow

Mark Lang is a carver and the new owner of the Tika Pono Toi Gallery and Studio in Dargaville.

The gallery and exhibition, Ao Ki Te Pō, reflect the rehabilitation of Lang, from former inmate to artist and businessman.

Mark Lang (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Horahia) is a success story of the Hōkai Rangi initiative instigated by the Labour government.

Its main goal is to instil aspects of te ao Māori as a tool in the rehabilitation of Māori prisoners. Lang was first introduced to the Hōkai Rangi initiative while serving a prison sentence for the manufacture of methamphetamine.

And it’s where he found his love and passion for carving.

“It all started when I got transferred to Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison. I got a powhiri into Te Whare Tirohanga Māori and that’s when I felt the big shift. Through there, I just started tikanga programmes, mau rākau, haka, and just learning my whakapapa.”

‘He is a better version of himself’

“You know I was incarcerated for seven years and I was a cost to the community.”

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis was on hand to celebrate the opening of the gallery.

“This all started with a dream while in prison. When he was incarcerated, he began to really think about what he wanted to do. Tika, Pono, Toi is the culmination of those dreams.”

It wasn’t an easy job getting the carving studio up and running. Upon being released from prison, he sought organisations, whānau, and friends to help him realise his dream.

Aunty Darlene Lang couldn’t be more proud of his accomplishments.

“He was always striving for something and then, when addiction took him over a little, it changed him, but he has been able to find himself again now. With him being incarcerated for a while, he was able to find himself, and now he is a better version of himself.”