The Lowdown #57: Worth fighting for

Dr Mere Whaanga.
Die Die Die. Photo credit: Joseph Leary.
Judge Fiona Partington with the winning artwork 'Nana's Birthday'. Photo: Supplied / Waikato Museum.
Chimp, Under Daylight, 2019, Aerosol on wood, 1200mm x 1200mm, (Fiksate) - photo via Stuff.
Dominic Hoey rounds up Aotearoa’s arts media uncovering feisty boycotts, festival watches and fantastic funding announcements


Vital space 

There was an article in Stuff last week backing what many of us in the arts already know, that art and art spaces are vital for people's mental health. And now there’s some science to back this up. 

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage recently sent out a survey looking into “what creative spaces offer, their strengths and resources, and the challenges they face providing enough arts programmes to meet the demand and needs of people in their communities.”

Almost all the creative spaces surveyed listed a sense of community being fostered in those who used the space. Another interesting finding was the high-level spaces were found to cater to a range of disabilities, including mental illness (86 per cent), intellectual disabilities (83 per cent) and learning disabilities (81 per cent). The article points out that some of the $1.9 billion earmarked for mental health could be spent subsidizing rent on art spaces especially in gentrified areas where artists are often prices out. 

One arts hub that has seen many of its spaces destroyed by gentrification is Auckland’s Karangahape Road. Artist and rapper Ryan Hendriks talks here about trying to keep some of the original spirit of the street alive. Ryan is one of the co-founders of arts collective the Grow Room, who had their art studio moved due to development several times before being shut down altogether. 

Vibrant boycott of controversial artist 

Last week’s Lowdown featured a mention of artist Theo Schoon and his ludicrous claims that contemporary, Gordon Walters,  stole his koru design which obviously comes from traditional Māori art. Now students in Wellington are calling for the public to boycott his exhibition. 

One of the protesters, Anna McAllister, said Schoon's work not only appropriated Māori motifs and patterns but that Theo himself was racist. 

"We feel like the curation of the show has meant that the wall text, where the general public's meant to get the majority of their information... is sort of dotting around the fact that he was a horrific racist."She told RNZ in an interview. 

A fight to the end

Filmmaker Tony Sutorius wrote an article for Noted about creating his documentary on the life of union leader Helen Kelly. The film, entitled Helen Kelly - Together, had its world premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival. It follows the last nine months of Helen’s life as she battles not only the cancer that would eventually take her life, but also for her right to use medical cannabis and for better safety for forestry workers. The article is beautifully written and gives some real insight into the life of a woman who fought so hard for others right up until her death. 

Another New Zealand film having its premiere at the Film Festival is Herbs: Songs of Freedom, a documentary that's been described by RNZ’s Steve Newall as “an intimate, sometimes irreverent, tale of how a diverse group of people, with strong political voices and damn good songs became intertwined in our national consciousness” 

The film tracks not only the music, but also the band's activism including their part in the Bastion Point occupation, which feels particularly relevant with what's happening out at Ihumātao. 

Māori arts funding for three projects

Maori screen organisation, Ngā Aho Whakaari sent out a press release last week with the news that three major drama series funded under NZ On Air’s Rautaki Māori strategy will play on mainstream channels: TVNZ and Three.

To be eligible for Rautaki funding two of the three key creatives must be Māori.

The three dramas are One Lane Bridge “a crime drama with a dark supernatural edge steeped in Māori spirituality.”

Head High “A gripping multi-cultural drama with a Māori family at its core, Head High for TV3 follows the emotional and highly competitive world of secondary school rugby”

Toke which “is centred on three kiwifruit workers who discover a new strain of marijuana and are drawn into the high stakes world of the global cannabis industry”

Dr Mere Whaanga.

Rongoā, Heal the land, Heal the people

Congratulations are in order for Dr Mere Whaanga, the first Māori writer to be awarded the Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship. The award is one of the most prestigious writing grants in the country, and Dr Whaanga will receive $100,000 allowing her to take time out to complete her book, Rongoā, Heal the Land, Heal the People.

“I feel very privileged to now have two years to dedicate to intensive research and writing on this project. This is the real value of the Creative New Zealand funding ­– that I can devote so much time to writing a book that will combine history, science, rongoā and practical applications of mātauranga (knowledge), all from a rural Māori perspective,” said Dr Whaanga.

Noisy Naps 

Musician Power Nap aka Chris Cudby has just released his debut album Shaped Canvas.  The former singer of Golden Axe and editor of Under the Radar, Chris has been an integral part of the Tāmaki Makaurau music scene for over a decade. I’m not too au fait on music genres but the album is described as “proto-vaporwave party jams, lo-tech psychedelic pop, looping sample slices and zoned-out soundscapes” 

Die Die Die -Photo credit: Joseph Leary.

Another mainstay of the NZ music scene, Die Die Die have released a new single Casualties Of Decades. The song is from a forthcoming EP and harks back to the more aggressive sound of easier releases. Over the years the 3 piece has become one of New Zealand’s more prolific bands, touring the globe and releasing 6 albums. 

Winner of the National Contemporary Arts Award announced 

Judge Fiona Partington with the winning artwork 'Nana's Birthday'. Photo: Supplied / Waikato Museum.

Dunedin-based artist, Ayesha Green, has won the 2019 National Contemporary Arts Award for her work Nana's Birthday.  The artwork depicts “a scene of mokopuna surrounding a tūpuna wahine, grandmother, on her birthday” 

Ayesha will receive $25,000, and the exhibition of the 52 finalists will be on display at the Waikato Museum, Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 10 November.

Eyeing it up 

If you’re not already familiar with the works of Auckland artist Toby Morris I highly recommend you check them out. He has a regular column on the Spinoff called Side Eye where he looks at everything from the country’s teaching crisis to our history of fatal police chases. 

This week’s comic is on that strange time in New Zealand history where everyone had a plastic bottle of water on their lawn to keep wandering dogs from defecating.. 

And in Christchurch, Warren Feeney has composed this extensive list of exhibitions worth checking out in Canterbury this month. One of the events that caught my eye is Winter Wander, a 'pop-up' event in central city, Christchurch. It features the work of over 60 contemporary artists, with installations, exhibitions and lunch-time sketching classes.    

Chimp, Under Daylight, 2019, Aerosol on wood, 1200mm x 1200mm, (Fiksate) - photo via Stuff.

Written by

Dominic Hoey

7 Aug 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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