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International Collaborations Open Up For NZ Creatives

29 Nov 2023

A new resource has thrown up the possibility of Aotearoa creatives finding ways to connect and build new relationships with Latin America - and the results are already compelling.

alys longley & Máximo Corvalán-Pincheira, Beberemos El Vino Nuevo, Juntos! | Let Us Drink the New Wine, Together!. Photo: Supplied.

Over the past few years, connections to the world outside our shores never felt so far away. The tyranny of distance multiplied by a pandemic made for an equation some felt too hard to solve.

But just as the borders re-opened, so too did Aotearoa's desire to reconnect with the rest of the world.

ayls longley & Máximo Corvalán-Pincheira, Beberemos El Vino Nuevo, Juntos! | Let Us Drink the New Wine, Together!. Photo: Supplied.

The creative community is no different - and now there's a new resource that offers insights and support to build those connections with a thriving cultural hotspot.

Creative Collaborations has been launched as an exciting and innovative conduit to showcase international collaborations between the New Zealand and Latin America creative economies. It serves as a directory of contemporary and historical collaborations, delivered both here and abroad, as well as profiling the collaborating practitioners/businesses, institutions, government agencies, and/or academics involved in their development and delivery. 

Its aim is to showcase successful collaboration to spark further connections and new initiatives that broaden New Zealand’s trade profile with Latin America. 

The pathways are there, and this new website showcases them for creative professionals (those working in cultural heritage, arts, media, and design) to engage with the region.

The project has been launched with events in Auckland and New Plymouth so far. The roadshow heads to Wellington on Thursday (30 November), with speakers who traverse both the artist and academic spaces. Well-versed trio Victoria University of Wellington's (VUW) Dr Lee Davidson, Massey University's Huhana Smith and alys longley from University of Auckland (all below) are set to provide even further insight.

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Davidson highlights “New Zealanders and Latin Americans work well together. We share a lot of goodwill, openness to each other’s cultures and a certain flexibility and innovative approach.” 

A gateway into another creative culture

A teacher and researcher at VUW for 23 years, Davidson first connected with Latin America when she studied an exhibition exchange between Te Papa Tongarewa and Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico, with her most recent project the De la Milpa a la Mesa: A Mexican Food Journey exhibition touring New Zealand between 2021 and 2023.

Davidson is impressed with what the Creative Collaborations platform has to offer Aotearoa creatives.

"The platform makes visible the incredible depth and diversity of creative collaborations that have already happened between NZ and Latin America. 

"When I started my own collaboration back in 2013, I wasn’t aware of this and it would have helped enormously to know more about what had been done in the past, how and by whom. It means that people can be inspired by and connect with others for advice and support. 

"Collaborating across cultures has some special challenges and rewards, and we can learn about these from each other rather than building up that experience independently, and this would help to more easily overcome some of the inevitable challenges and ensure that we can enhance the benefits."

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alys longley & Máximo Corvalán-Pincheira, Beberemos El Vino Nuevo, Juntos! | Let Us Drink the New Wine, Together!. Photo: Supplied.

longley - an artist, writer, and academic at Waipapa Taumata Rau/ University of Auckland Dance Studies Programme in the Creative Arts and Industries Faculty whose work has been performed in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and South America - agrees.

"This platform is inspiring and I hope it seeds new projects and encourages creatives to consider connecting with Latin American creative communities.  I think the wealth of specific projects on the Creative Collaborations site is really meaningful. The detail it offers on how specific projects begin, develop and come to fruition in practice offers windows for creatives to consider developing these kinds of cultural bridges in their work. 

"I think the specificity of information on the platform provides amazing models and examples to help consider what these kinds of collaboration look like and which cultural institutions, funders, and communities have a track record of supporting innovative work both in Aotearoa and Latin America."

Smith is a visual artist, curator and principle investigator in research who engages in major environmental, trans-disciplinary, kaupapa Māori and action-research projects. She describes the platform as "Critically important, as we face such precarious political, social, climate change, and major environmental decline issues that need to be solved at local to global levels - with a range of creative collaborations with indigenous knowledges, western sciences, contemporary art/design, culture and nature." 

Smith, longley and Davidson all agree the relationship between NZ and Latin American creative communities is under-recognised - but something that can be rectified.

ayls longley & Máximo Corvalán-Pincheira, Beberemos El Vino Nuevo, Juntos! | Let Us Drink the New Wine, Together!. Photo: Supplied.

longley, who's currently working with Chilean visual artist Francisco González Castro, who she collaborated with on the project Beberemos El Vino Nuevo, Juntos! | Let Us Drink the New Wine, Together! in 2022, explains " My experience has been in Chile where artists have been hugely active in pro-democracy movements in such powerful, intense, renegade and artistically mind-blowing ways.

"Honestly, being in Chile between October and December 2019 allowed me to witness the most heartbreaking, intelligent, awesome work. When I came home it was really frustrating and dismaying to see that most editors didn’t seem to think readers would be interested in the amazing work of these Chilean creatives and activists - so this astounding creative explosion was pretty much invisible to my NZ community."

Part of the Kuku Biochar project that was shown in Te Au: Liquid Constituencies at Govett Brewster Art Gallery Dec 3 2022-20 March 2023.

"Even though I’ve been doing this work now for a decade, I was amazed at the quantity and quality of projects past and present," Davidson adds. 

"It excites me a lot because this has in some ways happened organically, without much infrastructure and funding to support it. I think it shows the incredible value of these types of projects for the creative economies of both regions. This is what I think is truly undervalued. Hopefully, the Creative Collaborations platform will start a process whereby we can put more formal supports in place so we can continue to nurture, realise and make visible this value." 


Creative opportunity not to be missed

Davidson hopes that the new platform and the conversations it will spark open eyes, minds and doors for Aotearoa creatives.

"It has its challenges but - without a doubt - it has been the most rewarding and enriching professional experience of my life. 

"You have to stretch yourself to work across language barriers and immerse yourself in other worldviews, but we always come away better from these experiences because it enables us to better reflect on and understand our own positionality. 

"The results of intercultural collaboration are fantastic because they’re about working at that intersection between cultures and worldviews and this challenges and inspires us to go beyond what we know – or think we know – and try to see the world how others see it."

Ciaran Banks & Huhana Smith, Wero Iti | Little Stabs, Waro Hou | New Black, Kua pahemo te parakipere | Blackberry has gone, (2022) Photo: Bryan James.

Smith advises "Know that you are he manuwhiri or a visitor to someone else’s country - that you work to transform and inform yourselves well before embarking on developing working relationships with places across South America. 

"Be humble, be inquisitive, be innovative - but be respectful at all times. Be mindful of tough political and oppressive regimes over time and what led context to them."

When asked what advice she'd give creatives interested in crossing this cultural divide, longley declares "These connections and collaborations are all about relationships - building trust, having a meaningful process, trying things with low-stakes experiments and then committing to iterating work over time and building up to larger scale things. 

"I always found that opening the door, taking the risk and showing up for a process is the thing, and then if things go in directions other than you planned, have multiple back-up plans and ways to slow down and work in time differently. 

"Sometimes it just feels so impossible, and in my work, I despaired so many times with all the setbacks, but I’m so glad I continued. I’m really glad for the friendships and relationships that will last forever and which have changed me and made my world a bigger, richer, more poetic and profound place."


Written in partnership with the Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence – click here to visit the Creative Collaborations website and find out about the Wellington launch event on Thursday 30 November, 5.30-7.30pm, Embassy Theatre.