Brace for Impact
As far as summers go, it’s been a pretty good one - and well needed for so many in Aotearoa.
Traffic lights of the physical and the Covid variety have, of course, caused a few headaches from time to time but most New Zealanders - and Aucklanders in particular - have had the opportunity to feel as close to normal as they’ve been in some time.
But it’s all taken place with the threat of Omicron slowly battering away at our border.
For all those creatives and others who make a living on live events - talk of a move back to red light restrictions (and even worse, speculation of the dreaded L word) is more cause for concern.
The Government’s ‘when, not if’ approach to Omicron making its way into the community is already proving enough for some to make quick and cautious calls.
Just days after announcing the largest queer arts programme in the festival’s history - Auckland Pride has its first cancellation - the well-attended Ending HIV Big Gay Out.
The event was scheduled for 13 February at Coyle Park, traditionally drawing around 15,000-20,000 revellers. But the looming spectre of Omicron has seen organisers New Zealand Aids Foundation preemptively pull the pin.
Pride Executive Director Max Tweedie’s now constantly reviewing the rest of the 180 event schedule, something he’s all too familiar with after last year’s festival had to weather the impact of fluctuating alert levels.
Tweedie states “we cannot safely or responsibly operate the 2022 Auckland Pride Festival during an Omicron outbreak - and we know from experiences overseas that doing so regardless would result in significant disruption to the Festival, as well as infecting hundreds of our community.
Last year's Big Gay Out. Photo: Neptunia Moon.
“One of Auckland Pride’s Major Events, Te Tīmatanga is a significant and exciting public art activation that will take over Auckland Central in a monumental display of Takatāpui excellence.
“We are confident in our ability to install this public art activation, for our hapori to enjoy at any level of restrictions imposed as a result of Omicron. In this scenario, we see digital deliveries as a solution for our Tuwheratanga, Public Programming & Whakamutunga.
“We’re committed to honouring the hard work of our Te Tīmatanga artists and our hapori who have come together to enable us to deliver this kaupapa, by ensuring they’re given an opportunity to come together, albeit virtually, throughout Pride.”
Northland’s red light status has also seen a handbrake pulled on the Bay of Islands Music Festival - the 29 January scrapped concert is the 10th Covid cancellation for promoter Jackie Sanders of Jacman Entertainment.
“We have held on for as long as we could before making this difficult decision, but uncertainty over the traffic light system level on the date of the festival, the ongoing threat of large gatherings being implicated as exposure events, coupled with Northland lagging behind with vaccination rates is all conspiring to negatively impact what should be a fun celebration.”
BOI Festival headline act Salmonella Dub featuring Tiki Taane will still perform in Waitangi but now during Easter.
There will be many more directors, producers, artists and technicians around the country monitoring the situation closely with contingency plans at the ready.
It is set to be a big few months for the creative community, with cornerstone events like Auckland Arts Festival and the NZ Festival of Arts just around the corner, not to mention the countless theatre companies who are planning to spring back into life with their 2022 programmes.
Some of the events that had their 2021 ambitions ‘Covided’ are re-emerging as well.
High flying at the Bread & Circus World Buskers Festival. Photo: Supplied.
Popular Christchurch event Bread & Circus - World Buskers Festival has revealed its new dates. Originally slated for this month before Delta’s disruption, it will now run 22 April to 1 May with a range of acts and an interactive ‘playground’ for all ages set to make it another family-friendly highlight.
Aucklanders only have to wait until the end of the month for their taste of world class street performance, with nine acts set to grace the International Buskers Festival over Anniversary weekend.
Equilibristica, one of this year's acts at the Auckland International Buskers Festival. Photo: Supplied.
New Zealand Fashion Week was another that was forced to wash its hands of 2021 but has confirmed its final line up with the new dates of 7-12 February in Tāmaki Makaurau - open to the public for the first time with select shows after long being a trade-only event.
Another event forging ahead is much more off the beaten track - the Driftwood & Sand beach sculpture festival in Hokitika.
2021 Driftwood & Sand Festical Most Ambitious Winner 'What’s your heart set on?' by Sofia Johannson. Photo: Casey Neill.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, they’ve drawn some star power with renowned sculptor, Arts Laureate and Venice Biennale veteran Brett Graham signing on as both guest artist and judge - who’ll also be giving an Artist’s Talk at the Old Lodge.
It’s open entry and the rules are pretty simple, make what you can from whatever you find on the beachfront. Judging by last year’s entries, should be worth a roadie.
Driftwood & Sand Festival 2021 One Ocean Prize Winner 'Close Escape' by Juergen, Monika and Ana Schacke. Photo: Sue Asplin.
Shattering glass ceilings
It’s almost been a year since Aotearoa’s music industry was forced to confront its ugly underbelly with the ‘Me Too’ revelations that saw many applaud those who were brave enough to step forward with their story and demand better.
The fallout continues - this was never going to be a quick and easy process.
Instagram account Beneath the Glass Ceiling NZ (BTGC) was set up in March, following on from an Australian version, “to give a voice to those who have been silenced by the injustices that exist within the Aotearoa music industry. This includes sexual assault and harassment, abuse of power, bullying, systemic inequality, and more.”
It shares stories from victims who contact the page, with their names - as well as the names of those they accuse - removed along with specific details of the events/organisations they work with.
Who operates the BTGC page is unknown - but that hasn’t stopped a man that feels he is one of the accused from trying to expose the secret.
The latest BTGC post calls out a “Mr X” - who has lawyered up and accused music industry creative Shelley Te Haara of operating the account (something both Te Haara and BTGC deny) and threatening her with defamation if the posts aren’t removed in three days.
Journalist and documentary maker David Farrier is never one to let this type of thing slide, and has ripped into the issue in detail in his latest Webworm online blog. It’s Farrier who names Te Haara (with her permission) and fires back at Mr X’s legal threats section by section.
Farrier rightfully points out that the nameless man in question won’t specify which claim he is referring to or give any details - he’s asking for every post to come down.
If Mr X’s plan was for this to go away - it’s definitely backfired. The calling out of Mr X post is easily the most liked post BTGC NZ has ever put out, and surely will be leading to more scrutiny into the stories by some - even bringing in a wider audience as word does the rounds on social media.
BTGC’s reply says it all.
“We will not be threatened into silence and we will continue to share their stories.”
Watch this space.
Leaving a legacy
Muriwai Ihakara speaking at the 2014 Te Waka Toi Awards. Photo: CNZ.
As it’s the first Lowdown of the year, we want to reflect on a couple of significant passings since our last edition.
The loss of Muriwai Ihakara has been felt strongly in the creative community. Described by RNZ’s Jamie Tehana as “one of the titans of kapa haka and Māori culture and arts”, Ihakara’s legacy is an immense one.
In his 63 years, Ihakara contributed greatly to the growth of both te reo Māori and nga toi Māori - serving a decade as a leading Māori leader within Creative New Zealand.
CNZ Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright recounted “Muriwai was more than a colleague, he was a scholar, a teacher, an expert knowledge holder, an orator of immense skill, a traditional performing arts exponent of the highest accord and he rightfully advocated the value of te ao Māori and nga toi Māori (Māori arts) in the New Zealand arts scene.
“I for one will look back and acknowledge that Muriwai Ihakara was one who challenged us to embrace te ao Māori for our nation’s wellbeing. “
But everything stemmed from his passion and skill of kapa haka.
Māori Party co-leader, MP Rawiri Waititi shared his memories of Ihakara the kapa haka exponent on social media.
"Muriwai was right up there as one of the best. I took a lot from his style as he used his entire body to haka.
"From his head to his toes he would be quivering, trembling, shaking, eyes like headlights."
Another whose achievements have been remembered is novelist Keri Hulme, renowned for winning the prestigious Booker Prize for her acclaimed book The Bone People.
Keri Hulme speaking at Nga Puna Waihanga, Omaka Marae. Photo: Auckland Museum.
Her passing at 74 drew an international reaction, including from the UK’s Daily Telegraph (syndicated onto several NZ websites like the Herald) who referenced Hulme as “a pipe-smoking, white-baiting aficionado” that is part of a list of incredible authors such as Emily Brontë, JD Salinger and Harper Lee to have produced a singular masterpiece and not rushing to capitalise on their fame by banging out more for the sake of it.
Given The Bone People was 17 years in the writing, it’s clear that wasn’t Hulme’s priorities. "It might seem that I'm low in the productive stakes," she told RNZ in 2011. "But I don't think the writing game is about being productive. I don't think it's about being a celebrity at all.
“It's about creating stories and songs that will last. Otherwise, it's not worthwhile."
Power to the Pūoro
Jerome Kavanagh performing in Taiwan. Photo: Awi Tumun.
He’s been part of a Grammy Award-winning album and taken Māori culture all over the globe but Jerome Kavanagh’s latest accolade is keeping him much closer to home.
Taonga pūoro artist and practitioner Kavanagh has been announced as Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Composer-in-residence - starting at the end of February.
His upcoming 10 month stint will see him work on five projects, which will include fortnightly concerts at New Zealand School of Music. Kavanagh will also bring his ‘Power to the Pūoro’ programme to Wellington schools, aiming to open the eyes of budding musicians to the majesty of taonga pūoro.
Kavanagh says “I’m really looking forward to having time and space to focus on composing, recording, and releasing new music. This residency gives me the ability to work among my friends and within the community of some of the greatest musicians I’ve worked alongside, something I’ve missed while travelling over the past 20 years throughout Aotearoa and the world.”
Jerome Kavanagh performing at New York's famed Carnegie Hall. Photo: Supplied.
As for the chance to show off indigenous skills overseas, today (Thursday 20 January) is the last day to apply for the 2022 CIRCUIT Tagata Moana Moving Image Award.
The $7,500 commission will support a Moana Pasifika artist based in Aotearoa to create a new single channel moving image work. They will be flown to the UK and debut their work at the 18th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival in September.
For details (and you gotta be quick from here) check out the Tautai website.