By day, Agnes Ishak works as an interpreter at the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre and for Red Cross as a cultural worker.
By night, she transforms canvases into works depicting the suffering of the Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq.
Originally from Baghdad, the Manurewa resident began painting a decade before moving to New Zealand in 1993, and now her latest exhibition, Inanna’s Echo, is being staged at Nathan Homestead until March 7.
While her work acknowledges the persecution of her people, she says it reflects a message of peace, a cornerstone of Assyrian values.
"The exhibition is a call for reconciliation and tolerance,” she says. “It draws on ancient Assyrian values and wisdom.
"I’m honoured that Māori, as the indigenous people of this land, did a blessing, because Assyrians share similar values and our mythologies are closely related.”
Incorporating abstraction, expressionism and symbolism, many of her paintings feature significant ruins in northern Iraq, the centre of Assyrian civilisation.
"They reference the mythological tales of Inanna or Ishtar, an ancient goddess associated with love, fertility, justice and political power,” she says.
"It is also a call for everyone to connect with their past and learn from the messages our ancestors have left in art, structures, buildings, symbols and myths."
The exhibition, supported by Manurewa Local Board, also incorporates a day on Saturday, February 22 from 10am to 2pm, when visitors are invited to join Ishak to tour her show and work within David Nathan Park.
“It’s a relaxed day for artists and visitors to come together to enjoy drawing in the park’s beautiful surroundings.”