Arts Activism & Aroha

Stan Walker performing at Ihumātao.
Auckland Zine Fest in full swing. Image by Lucy Zee.
Wild Dogs Under My Skirt.
Essa May Ranapiri.
Dominic Hoey heads to Ihumātao and then scouts the country for what's breaking in the arts media for Lowdown #56


Over the last week, a number of New Zealand artists attended the occupation in Ihumātao in support of the land protectors. Stan Walker performed to hundreds of people on Thursday night, including an emotional performance of Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over. 

On Friday, poet Grace Taylor restaged Upu Mai Whetū, her theatre show where Pacific stars of stage and screen perform poems from our Pasifika and Māori literature pioneers. 

With news of the government calling a halt to any building for the time being, and the police line moving away from the campsite, the mood on Saturday, was more celebratory. 

The organisers managed to pull together a festival with some of the country's top musicians in just one day. I was lucky enough to make it out and catch, Pacific Music Award winner Mellow Downs, while graffiti artist GASP painted a mural on the side of a shed behind us. 

Vincent O’Malley has written a piece for The Spinoff which frames the Ihumātao story in a historical context.

Parris Strikes Again

Another talented New Zealander who made an appearance at Ihumātao, Parris Goebel, recently choreographed pop star, Sam Smith's latest video. The video for his song How Do You Sleep has over 20 million views on Youtube and over the last few years, Parris has become one of the country’s most successful artists. As well as Sam Smith,  she’s worked with Justin Bieber, Ciara, Kanye West, Little Mix and Janet Jackson.

Spatting Frenemies 

New Zealand artists, Theo Schoon and Gordon Walters were both contemporaries and rivals throughout their careers. 

Schoon accused Walters of stealing his koru design, while Walters claimed they came up with it together. Both of them ignoring the fact that they had both stolen it from, traditional Māori art. 

The two deceased artists are once again competing, both having exhibitions on in Wellington at the same time. Split Level View Finder: Theo Schoon and New Zealand Art is on at City Gallery and is the first big showing of Theo’s work since the early 1980's. 

Meanwhile at Te Papa, Gordon Walters: New Vision features Gordon's earliest black and white koru works from the 1960s, his first foray into abstract in the 1940s, and never-before-seen paintings, studies and notebooks.

Zine Dreaming

Auckland Zine Fest in full swing. Image by Lucy Zee. 

Last weekend, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, played host to the Auckland Zine Fest. Writer and producer, Lucy Zee, reported on the celebration of DIY publishing for The Spinoff. Lucy describes a zine as “a self-published booklet of work that could include almost anything – writing, illustrations, cut-outs, photographs” And the low cost of production means that as an artwork it’s open to almost anyone who can get their hands on some paper and pens. This leads to zines often taking a political bent and as Lucy points out “The event’s diversity and number of PoC stallholders have increased year on year.” There’s also something cool about what is often considered lowbrow artwork being held in the country's largest art gallery. 

Music Foraging 

In a weird way Auckland musician, Christoph El' Truento’s new album, Foraging reminds me of the aural version of a zine. The 8 track release, out on Berlin electronic label Cosmic Compositions, has that same piecemeal, homemade quality about it. While at the same time being captivating and wholly original. 

Christoph might be better known to readers as one of the producers of Tom Scott’s now-defunct @peace project. He’s been making solo music for a while now, with each release taking its own tangent. You can check out his whole discography here

Another artist who doesn't mind hopping between genres, Northland's Troy Kingi, released his new video ‘Ethiopia last week. It’s the first single from Troy’s album, Holy Colony Burning Acres, which is number three in Tory’s ambitious quest to release 10 albums across 10 genres in 10 years. 

Grey Lynn Royalty 

Walking through Grey Lynn today, it would be easy to forget that it was once a hub for NZ hip hop. From Che Fu to DLT, a number of rap pioneers have called the Auckland central city suburb home. But amongst the million-dollar villas, there are still artists making some great rap music, and top of that list for me is Eno x Dirty. 

The duo has been busy recording a new album Honest To Whom, which came out last week. 

They’re heading off around the country over the next few weeks, to promote the 7 track album.

“It’s the first time we will be releasing something free of the feeling the material is old to us,” Dirty aka Manu Walters said of the new release, “instead we are proud to stand next to it like a 4-year-old showing his parents the macaroni painting he did at kindy that day."

Home in Christchurch then off to Broadway 

Wild Dogs Under My Skirt.

It’s just been announced that award-winning poet and national treasure, Tusiata Avia’s play, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt will be heading to New York in January. The play is currently being staged at the Christchurch Arts Festival.  It's the first time in 16 years that it’s been performed in Tusiata’s hometown. Originally a one-woman show, today it features a cast of 6 and has been performed around the world, winning a slew of awards and critical acclaim. 

The play also has some serious talent behind the scenes, being produced by Tusiata’s cousin Victor Rodger, and directed by Anapela Polata’ivao, who also performs in the show. 

Breaking Through the Barriers of Prejudice

A newly-remastered version of Merata Mita's film, Mauri will be screening at this years Venice Film Festival. 30 years on from its release, it’s still the only feature film directed by a Māori woman. Merata also directed documentaries Bastion Point: Day 507 (1980) and Patu! (1983). Last year her son, Heperi Mita made his own documentary, Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen, a portrait of his mother and her work. Speaking about Mauri’s selection Heperi said it was a “tremendous honour to have the film in the completion, and it vindicates his mother's struggle to break through the barriers of prejudice.”

Diversity, Inspiration and Children's Books

Over at The Sapling, poet Nida Fiazi takes a look at the lack of diversity in children's books both in Aotearoa and overseas. Nadia talks about how important it is for people of colour to see themselves reflected in books, especially as a child.  

“Seeing yourself and your experiences being represented in stories feels like a validation of personhood,” Nadia says “of being one of many, rather than an outlier or someone who doesn’t belong” 

She goes on a search for children’s books that meet the above criteria and manages to find a number of titles.


Essa May Ranapiri.

Staying on The Sapling, poet essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa) talks about the books that inspired them growing up. Essa’s debut poetry collection, Ransack, is out this month on VUP.  Essa has been making a name for themselves with their work appearing in journals around the country including Sport, Mimicry and Poetry NZ. Essa talks about the influence of their nan reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the imagery of Disney films and how Grover of Sesame Street fame informed their work. 

Written by

Dominic Hoey

31 Jul 2019

Dominic Hoey is an author, playwright and poet based in Tāmaki Makaurau. His debut novel, Iceland was a New Zealand bestseller and was long-listed for the 2018 Ockham Book Award.

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