Korerō & Connection When It's Needed Most
Originally, digital shifts were a necessity to keep the creative industries going.
Moves forced to ensure the sense of community, the need for engagement and conversation that lives at the heart of the sector could be fulfilled.
But heading online has proven to be more than just a flash in the pan for the Performing Arts Network of New Zealand (PANNZ).
For the second year running, their highly regarded PANNZ Arts Market will be run digitally between 28 February and 3 March.
CEO Louise Gallagher proclaims “last year’s Market was really successful - more successful than we had anticipated. We had more people attend the Market digitally than we ever been able to in person.
“The feedback we got was overwhelmingly positive so we decided to stick with it because it’s a format that really works.”
Since the uninvited pandemic came barging through our front door two years ago, PANNZ has been one of the leading figures in this space. Their regular ‘Zui’ during the original Lockdown became the pulse-read of the creative community, providing both solidarity and a platform to air the frustrations/bewilderment in what was happening.
Dolina Wehipeihana is the regular moderator of those discussions. “This year we’re trying to use the time of PANNZ as an opportunity to gather for different kinds of conversations. We’ve got a breakout Zoom session later in the Market and we’re hosting a few more conversations than we did last time, with both local and international arts colleagues."
Don’t get it twisted - live is still life for the world of theatre. The drive and desire for an in-person gathering of creative minds and energy is still there, currently planned for June.
Given that for many involved in this vibrant industry, it’s been seven months (through Lockdowns and Red Lights) since they’ve been able to come together, this digital Market plays a crucial role - and indeed, has a sense of responsibility - in maintaining that connection.
Gallagher says “one of the most important elements of the Market is that point of gathering. That’s fundamental to the fabric of our industry in many ways, our opportunity to talk, to celebrate what people are doing, to be inspired by others.”
Wehipeihana states “what you miss at a digital Market is you’re not having the kanohi ki te kanohi experience, you’re not having the gathering around the morning tea table moment, you’re not able to piggyback on someone you know who introduces you to someone new.
“So within the digital environment that we’re all really used to, we hope to create those moments where you can meet someone new, you can hear an interesting whakaaro or thought around a topic that you hadn’t heard before.
“Not to mention that right now, during this time of Red Light, when a lot of works and events have been cancelled or postponed, we can actually have an opportunity to talk about it and talk to each other.”
There will be a range of opinions and expertise delivered from all over the world - like the panel on Alternative Ways of Touring and Presenting Internationally.
But there is still a focus on what makes ‘us’ uniquely us.
Putting te ao Māori into focus
Atamira Dance Company's Te Wheke. Photo: Supplied.
One of the highlights looks set to be the opening day’s Arts in Aotearoa panel, with respected names like Amber Curreen, Pelenakeke Brown, Cat Ruka, Tama Waipara, Mīria George and Elise Sterback holding court.
“We wanted to start the Market with a panel of industry leaders who have things to share that we think will be really useful for everyone watching,” Wehipeihana says.
“It’s a reflective space but also a space where they’ll be sharing their actual knowledge. This is a focus on the state of the arts and the state of the artists at this particular time.
“We don’t know exactly what they’re going to share but we’re wanting to bring through korerō and dialogue about the changes that are needed at this time, what has supported artists throughout this period and how their own practices have adapted.”
Dolina Wehipeihana. Photo: Ralph Brown.
Like many of the names on the Arts in Aotearoa panel, Wehipeihana brings a passion for te ao Māori to the Arts Market. There has been a concerted effort to bring Mātauranga Māori into both the event and PANNZ as an organisation - with Wehipeihana’s role as Kaiārahi Māori at the heart of it.
With Kura Te Ua advising the tikanga for the Market, the framework for the whole event has been built around a whakataukī (proverb) - about turning to the environment to centre us through these uncertain times.
Tuia ki te Rangi
Tuia ki te Whenua
Tuia ki te Moana
Tuia ki te Here Tāngata
Ka rongo te Pō
Ka rongo te Ao
Tihei Mauri Ora!
It is written in the heavens,
Upon the land and the ocean,
Interwoven with the thread of humanity
And balanced between light and day
The spirit of life is within us!
Wehipeihana says “we want to share more knowledge about te ao Māori with people who attend PANNZ. It’s also important it’s a space where Māori can come that they feel safe and they understand that while PANNZ might predominantly be a Pākehā-led organsiation, it’s a space for Māori as well.
“I’m feeling really positive about where PANNZ is at on its journey to incorporating te ao Māori worldview into the way that it functions - across all its activities, not just the market.”
Show must go on
Taki Rua's Tiki Taane Mahuta. Photo: Philip Merry.
Of course, there’s the other non-negotiable element to the Arts Market - the art itself.
There will be a swag of pitches put forward across the four days - ranging from some of the performing arts most established producers like Nightsong, Te Pou Theatre, Victor Rodger’s FCC to relative rookies - this year, around 40% of those pitching at the Market will be doing so for the first time.
There’s also some showcase events to take in - like internationally celebrated hit Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, Atamira Dance Company’s Te Wheke and UPU by Upu Collective. Silo Theatre’s Mauri Tau will also be exclusively streamed for those who have registered.
As they did last year, PANNZ has combined with Ticketmaster to open up access to the Arts Market for producers and independents to sign up for no charge.
Gallagher enthuses the Market is something that will hold appeal to anyone involved in the industry.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re an emerging artist or a long-in-the-tooth presenter,” she says, “it’s a chance for people to come to hear and be heard.”
Louise Gallagher. Photo: Ralph Brown.
Wehipeihana adds another benefit of being online - you can dip in and out, to tailor your own programme during the course of the week.
“We all know about Zoom fatigue. You don’t need to be glued to the screen from 10am-4pm every day, you can tune in and out of different sessions - and because the platform records everything, you’re able to jump back in and watch someone’s pitch or showcase at a later time. It’s very user friendly.”
The Big Idea is a proud partner of the PANNZ Arts Market - running digitally from 28 February-3 March. Click here to register or find out more.