The Lowdown #62: He mea nui ngā toi

A Place Tū Be, Wellington installation - Chevron Hassett
Apirana Taylor performing this last weekend at Going West Festival (can work for Te Wiki week also)
Michel Tuffery with Prof Adam Thornton outside the Beijing Biennale.
Elizabeth Knox - photo by Ebony Lamb.
Nau mai haere mai - Mark Amery has this week's Lowdown, with links to great art news, festival info and content. He mea nui ngā toi - art is important.

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Kia ora, it’s Te Wiki o te Reo Māori and Creative New Zealand have delivered on a great idea: providing a few arts related phrases to assist in encouraging your use of te reo Māori. Here's a favourite: he mea nui ngā toi ki a ki a tātou o Aotearoa i a rā (arts matter to New Zealanders every day).

One of those handy phrases: he aha tō tino waiata? What’s your favourite song? To which you might now reply with something from this genius 2019 Te Wiki o te Reo Māori project, Waiata Anthems. Varied musicians have re-recorded well known work in te reo, from Bic Runga with Haere Mai Rā (Sway) to Tami Neilson with Roimata (Cry Myself to Sleep).  Bic came into RNZ with Jesse Mulligan to talk about the project

Te Wiki Arts Coverage

It’s not just songs being translated into te reo. Earlier this year Te Haumihiata Mason (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Pango, Te Arawa) translated Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl. And, as the Rotorua Daily Post writes, she is spending Te Wiki in Rotorua promoting it. The journal, Te Rātaka a Tētahi Kōhine is having a relaunch in Rotorua with Mason, Anne Frank New Zealand chairman Boyd Klap and race relations commissioner Meng Foo on Thursday. The story of the translation is told in this Stuff article with a video in which Mason speaks of how she looked for the voice in the book to be that of a young Māori girl.

Plenty on The Big Idea to mark the week including this great piece from poet and playwright Annette Morehu on her relationship with te reo. You'll also find Chevron Hassett, Hanelle Harris and Miriama Grace-Smith talking to Jessica Thompson Carr about working as a Māori artist.

It’s good to see museums getting involved across Aotearoa. Here are a few different examples: a public language programme at Govett Brewster New Plymouth; at Hastings City Art Gallery curator Hira Henderson provides a guided tour followed by an introductory te reo Māori session; City Gallery Wellington has its now celebrated annual Ngā Tāngata Kōrero mō te Reo: True Stories Told Live session, and Auckland Art Gallery has a free family drop-in session on Saturday.

Speaking of Toi Māori, reviews have started coming in from the world premiere of Taika Waititi’s latest film JoJo Rabbit at the Toronto International Film festival. Taika won the Ebert Directors Award at Toronto, with co-head Joana Vicente calling him “one of the most innovative, bold, and exciting filmmakers working in the industry right now”. And you can, via the interweb, be there. Here’s the Q&A with Taika and cast at TIFF on YouTube (Taika’s intro starts three minutes in, and certainly reminds us he has a background in standup). Also there and starring NZ’s Thomasin McKenzie. The reviews are more mixed, as collated here by Rotten Tomatoes. Patchy and thinly etched says The Guardian, but who in Aotearoa won’t want to make their own call?

Meanwhile Te Hā Kaituhi Māori, the National Māori Writers' Hui 2019 have announced its programme of wānanga and workshops for writers in te reo and English with a totally knockout cross-generational speakers list that includes Patricia Grace, Renée, Witi Ihimaera, James George, Whiti Hereaka, Paula Morris and Tayi Tibble. No better illustration might there be of e tuhi, mai i te ao Māori ki te ao whānui - taking New Zealand literature with a strong Māori voice to the world.

Upcoming Festivals


Apirana Taylor performing this last weekend at Going West Festival.

Beyond Going West currently on in Titirangi (review of opening weekend from Paula Green) there are many reasons to travel in October. Check these links. This last week Verb Wellington announced its ever lively expanded literary festival programme for October including Litcrawl. Also included is a programme of micro-residencies for writers in five art galleries. It’s in association with literary journal Sweet Mammalian, which you can find online here

Also in Wellington, Circuit have stepped up a notch with the marketing of their annual new artists cinema festival. It’s now called Aura (28 September-5 October), and for the first time celebrates as its theme a location: long-time artists’ mecca Newtown. Home Movies, is a one-off one-day installation (on September 28) of 20 artist videos in Newtown shops, businesses and cultural spaces, featuring performance commissions awarded by Circuit to Louie Neale, Raewyn Martin, Max Fleury and Anna Brimer. All the works respond to Newtown as a location. Future festivals will move from city to city.

Mid October Hawkes Bay Festival hits as does the 25th anniversary of the Nelson Arts Festival looking in fine rejuvenated form. Fulsomely indigenous, the brand new Taīrawhiti Festival runs 4-20 October in Taīrawhiti Gisborne, and the Tauranga Arts Festival hits at the end of the month. Tauranga director Jo Bond meanwhile has announced she is standing down after 16 years of involvement. Taranaki have announced this week a Spiegeltent Fest (video intro here) for the end of November (those are the Dutch tents that have become iconic festival cabaret venues). 

Awards Aroha

Loving all the aroha being given to the words and faces of our new artist laureates from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Te Tumu Toi. Spinning out one at a time across social media you’ll find all the short video intros to them on Vimeo. Here’s Sima Urale, with the others listed. What I would also love - to fit the kaupapa - is the names of the excellent photographers, cinematographers and journalists doing the portraits credited in the stories. 

Speaking of awards, Palmerston North Awatapu College student Malachi Oldridge has won the 2019 IHC Art Awards People’s Choice Award for his work, ‘My Nani as a Māori Girl’, a tribute to E Mervyn Taylor’ this last weekend.  Malachi featured in the Manawatu Standard. Michael Nathan won the principal award for his painting ‘Lost in Space’.

Spinning the Globe 


Michel Tuffery with Prof Adam Thornton outside the Beijing Biennale.

He wasn’t even supposed to be onstage… Sol3 Mio star tenor Pene Pati was the understudy for Bryan Hymel as Romeo in the San Francisco Opera’s opening season of Romeo and Juliet, but on Friday he stepped in when Hymel withdrew. The San Francisco Chronicle’s chief music critic Joshua Kosman gushed: “He’s got a vigorous, full-bodied sound with a lustrous mid-range and glorious, perfectly placed top notes, including one long-held stratospheric closer that would have sounded like showboating if it hadn’t been so magnificent. Pati sings in a gleaming, sensuous stream of sound, with heroic accents in more athletic passages and a warm, tenderly inviting depth for moments of romantic intimacy.”

Twenty-eight plays from around the world are about to be performed from Thursday in Dunedin, over just three days. The writers tell their stories in just 20 minutes, as part of the UNESCO Cities of Literature Short Play Festival. Lynn Freeman spoke to dramaturg Fiona Graham about the project on RNZ National.

This week is a big one in Sydney for New Zealand contemporary art with galleries attending two art fairs. Sydney Contemporary runs from Thursday to Sunday and features galleries Auckland Print Studio, Bowerbank Ninow, Fox Jensen, Gow Langsford, Sanderson, Starkwhite and Two Rooms, with one of this year’s selectors being John McCormack from Starkwhite. 

But it’s also in parallel the sixth edition of an alternative fair set in hotel rooms, Spring 1883, this year at The Establishment. It’s run by galleries and participants are selected by galleries.  Featured are three of our newest and smartest dealers Sumer, The Vivian and Mercy Pictures, with stalwarts Jonathan Smart and Suite.

Meanwhile 21 New Zealand artists’ work are currently at the Beijing Biennale at the National Art Museum of China. New Zealand with Ai Gallery had its first ever ‘Special Exhibition’(one of six such exhibitions), and the artists featured were rather eclectic: from Tama Iti and Michel Tuffery to Evan Woodruffe and Kerry Ann Lee. That eclecticism, and the relative safety of the formats they’ve chosen - It’s a place for painting and sculpture - work with the more conservative nature of this state-run event. 

Not to be missed 


Elizabeth Knox - photo by Ebony Lamb.

A collection of writing as artistic response to Ihumatāo, Te Rito o Harakeke is now available for download online after being launched this past weekend. The collection was brought together by Hana Pera Aoake, Sinead Overbye, essa may ranapiri, and Michelle Rahurahu Scott. 

Here’s Warren Feeney’s best of Christchurch gallery shows for September in The Press. Always excellent for its smart pithy overview of excellent work across the galleries.

Here’s a terrific interview with novelist Elizabeth Knox by Pip Adam at Pantograph Punch on the occasion of the publication of her ‘epic fantasy’ The Absolute Book. Out 12 September it’s already been reviewed on the Booksellers blog The Reader by Lynette Hartgil. Adam calls it “a masterclass in world-building”. Knox also has a re-release out as a VUP Classic of The Vintner’s Luck this month.

Always worth a listen is 95bFM’s Artbank. In this latest episode online dealer Tim Melville talks about “his journey from being a flight attendent to one of Auckland's most respected art dealers” and the dynamics of the art market, and Aqui Thami, founder and coordinator of Sister Library, the only feminist library in South Asia talks about this and her involvement with the Bombay Underground arts collective. All on the occasion of Aqui’s visit to Auckland’s St Paul St Gallery (AUT) and Samoa House Library.

And it’s been noted a fair few times in my social media feeds: these six New Zealand composers commissioned for WOW - talking to each other here on The Spinoff - are all men.

Written by

Mark Amery

11 Sep 2019

Mark Amery has worked as an art critic, writer, editor and broadcaster for many years across the arts and media.

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