‘They are our future’: Street artists hope to inspire misguided youths through art form

Artists Danny Edwards (left back) and Josh Menheere (left front), have reformed themselves after lives of crime and are conducting street art workshops aimed at youth. The duo are seen here with their sponsors Norty North Movement Riders Club and the crew. Photo / Tania Whyte

Two Whangārei street artists are on a mission to encourage youths to discover their creative spark through art and deter them from a life of crime.

Operating out of a studio at Riverside Drive, Danny Edwards and Josh Menheere are a motivated art duo who regularly hold weekend workshops for rangatahi with the objective of “bringing a positive change within the community”.

“Our hope is to turn our youth away from gangs and drug dealings, which only lead to a life of misery. They are our future. We’ve got to look after them,” Edwards said.

During every workshop, the artist makes it a point to share his “dark past”.


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“I have been taking drugs ever since my mum was pregnant with me,” he said with a grim look on his face.

Growing up in a poor Māori family during the ‘90s, he spent most of his time in his “hood” learning the tricks of the trade.

He confessed to the Advocate that over the years, drug dealing became a family business.

Not long afterwards, he would find himself “trapped in the system”.


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“I was in and out of prison so many times that it made me go into depression, and it wasn’t funny anymore.”

After more than a dozen visits to prison and reflecting on his actions every time he was put in a cell. he finally realised that he was done with hurting himself and his community.

The turning point in his life, he says, was when he had his daughter some time ago.

“I knew I had to make some serious changes to become a better father, and soon found myself a job doing concrete and construction work,” Edwards said.

His tryst with street art, however, goes all the way back to his teenage years.

“After one of my mates introduced me to graffiti, I quickly got addicted to it. Over the years, I realised that it was probably a good way to express myself for what I was going through.

“But that said I would not encourage our youth to do graffiti, which is illegal. If they want to do it the right and legal way, they should approach us,” Edwards said.

Josh Menheere shows kids some of the basics of painting. Photo/ Tania Whyte
Josh Menheere shows kids some of the basics of painting. Photo/ Tania Whyte

His friend and fellow artist Josh Menheere, who also calls himself a Hare Krishna follower, concurred.

Sharing his journey, he recalled being a sort of delinquent in his teenage years.

When he was about 15, his cousin introduced him to the world of graffiti and spraying their names on the walls/places, a practice described as “tagging”.


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“Back then, I didn’t realise it was vandalism, since I just wanted an outlet for my emotions.

“But that soon changed when I realised as an adult that getting commissioned to do street art is more reasonable.”

Menheere said his turning point in life came when his uncle returned home from a trip to India transformed as a Hare Krishna monk.

“That was the start of my spiritual journey,” he said.

Both he and Edwards feel that for most youths, street art was synonymous with being “cool and appealing”.

“We just want to take advantage of that and teach our rangatahi the right way of expressing their energy. We will teach them all the skills of the art form, including the way to make the words dance in a colourful fashion,” the duo said.


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The artists, who place themselves under their Kotahitanga Movement banner, said they are already getting positive responses from the community, including some schools which have expressed their interest in their workshops.

They are actively looking for funders, and can organise a personalised workshop during the weekdays as well.

To get in touch, contact Danny Edwards at 021 0224 2877.

Avneesh Vincent is the crime and emergency services reporter at the Advocate. He was previously at the Gisborne Herald as the arts and environment reporter and is passionate about covering stories that can make a difference. He joined NZME in July 2023.

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