Emanuella de Ruiter
27 Jan 2020
Emanuella is a documentary photographer and writer based in Ōtautahi Christchurch. She enjoys writing about people and their unique life experiences — especially when those experiences involve the arts!
Increasing accessibility and inclusiveness is an aspiration for this year’s Auckland Fringe Festival, and leading this charge is Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho. Taking up the role of director at the end of 2019, Borni hopes to provide Tāmaki Makaurau with an arts festival that represents a wide range of communities.
“By the end of my first kōrero with the board I was convinced that this would be the right role for me. I really liked how they framed the objectives of Auckland Fringe — which is centred around creating a unique identity within the overarching international Fringe Festivals. I was inspired by the desire to build a Fringe that is very Auckland-centric and close to the hearts of artists here.”
“By the end of my first kōrero with the board I was convinced that this would be the right role for me.”
As the first Māori director of the Auckland Fringe, Borni immediately brings something new to the table.
“With me comes ideas of how to hold a space within a tikānga Māori framework: any work that I do – whether with my company Taurima Vibes, or as a whānau member of Te Pou Theatre – is based around cultural protocols and concepts that I learnt from my whānau.”
Having the ability to work on projects with family members is something that Borni has valued most throughout his career — particularly his work in Te Pou Theatre alongside his brother Tainui Tukiwaho who is a well-known actor and producer.
“There is a great sense of achievement being able grow professionally together by working alongside one another — having that family support is really important to me. I was in Sydney recently for a show my brother opened with Amber Cureen in collaboration with Ilbijerri Theatre Company called Black Ties. Our youngest niece is a part of that too, so it was really nice to be in an artistic space where all three of us could have each other's backs. My brother and I confer often and he'll be my first port of call if I feel like I need someone to bounce ideas off or if I'm feeling like things are a bit challenging.”
Borni’s career in the arts spans a number of professions. Working as an actor, producer, director, and even as a facilitator for positive social change, some of the most crucial skills he has obtained aren’t those which can be studied at university, but those that are picked up through life experience.
“The most important thing I’ve learnt is how to hold spaces, look after people in the way they need to be looked after, and communicate in a way that people feel heard and seen. I've learnt those qualities in the last few years by having to function in a lot of different areas — including my work facilitating wellness for artists around the country and working with the homeless alongside my friends at the Hobson Street Theatre Company.
Another beneficial thing I learnt is to make sure to balance who I am in all those different types of spaces — it’s important to remain authentically yourself rather than trying to change to fit certain roles.”
“The most important thing I’ve learnt is how to hold spaces, look after people in the way they need to be looked after, and communicate in a way that people feel heard and seen.”
Borni explains that he would like to see a wider demographic attending Fringe performances. This is something he is hoping to implement by introducing new initiatives that will draw in people from various cultural backgrounds and different parts of Auckland.
“The idea of accessibility is often thought of only in terms of disability space, but it can actually come in many other forms: financial, representational, cultural... I think if people see their community being actively encouraged to be a part of the Fringe, or if they see someone who reflects themselves participating, then they might feel comfortable to engage as well.”
One initiative that Borni hopes will encourage wider participation is the Fringe’s mentorship programme, which is currently under development.
“We have numerous arts organisations putting their names forward to support certain groups — so for instance, our friends at Flock are supporting senior development and will look after a group of over-60s who have just registered. That means people from various backgrounds and ages will have a space that will support them and encourage a wider berth of participation in the Fringe. We'll also have a Wāhine/Female Development, Rangatahi Development, and Takatāpui/Rainbow Development — it’s about showing people that we're trying to be more inclusive and represent diversity more strongly.”
“If they see someone who reflects themselves participating, then they might feel comfortable to engage as well.”
What’s Borni looking forward to in the programme? “There is a lot I'm looking forward to! I'm really excited about Alien Weaponry who I discovered recently. Scream metal is not normally my thing, but they’re doing amazing things for Te Reo internationally and lets be honest they’re pretty skux!”
The Auckland Fringe kicks off on 25th February and runs until the 7th March 2020. It boasts something for everyone to enjoy by showcasing a wide selection of artforms including theatre, comedy, dance, and music.
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