Erika Pearce unveils I AM WAHINE showing the beauty and strength in women of colour

On June the 15th, Erika Pearce gave Ponsonby Road some heart, weaving Māori tradition into her I AM WAHINE exhibition. I had the pleasure of being a guest of honour at the opening and for the first time, seeing how she'd recreated one of my self-portraits. Her work explores the strength and beauty of modern women across the Pacific and beyond, and the environmental issues facing the oceans that connect them. She worked with each woman individually, finding out about what motivated us and our journeys.

A week earlier, I met Erika in a cosy Newmarket café. She greeted me with a hearty hug and a sincere smile. She emanated this overwhelming sense of warmth and chuckled about finally meeting the girl behind the face she'd spent weeks painting. She'd emailed me a few months earlier after finding my photography online and asked if she could paint one of my self-portraits. I was elated and immediately said yes, now I was finally going to see the finished result. As she pored over various carefully selected prints, she told me about each one in detail, explaining what each painting meant individually, before showing me mine. It was beautiful. She told me about the women behind the other paintings and their stories.  It was fascinating to see how she’d captured each of these women, their beauty, strength and their flaws in vibrant swirls of blue and yellow. We talked at length about my journey as an immigrant woman of colour and her journey as an artist among other topics, like the changing face of New Zealand and the importance of being exposed to different cultures.

Erica said she started painting women in an effort to get to know herself better. She took a break from commercial work to find her voice and figure out what she wanted to say to the world.

Erica says:

“I started painting women to understand my own sense of self. I paint women who are strong, women who feel confident and beautiful in their own skin. Women who own their beauty. Every one of us has a story. We have all faced heartbreak, overcome obstacles and celebrated triumphs.”

Erika aims to inspire young women with her work and encourage them to think deeply about their self-worth, strength and their potential. She wants women to know that they can do absolutely anything, all while being the most beautiful creature on the planet."

What I most admired about the exhibition was how she wove each of her subjects into the process, down to the description cards at the exhibition. She was very careful not to take from the cultures that inspired her, instead, collaborating with them, and allowing them to control their own narratives.

To see the work from yourself, head over to 62 Ponsonby road. The exhibition is open every day until the 24th of June and they’ll be an opportunity to meet Erika herself, too. Take a little piece of Erika's magic for yourself by buying a print, a portion of proceeds from Erika’s work will be given to Women's Refuge.

Prints are available on

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