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Lowdown #29: They came, they queued, and they got WOWed

Pharos. Image by Leroy Beckett for NZ Herald
Julia Holden, Olympia.
Simon Devitt
Te WakaToi Awards. Image by Mark Tantrum.
Kids of Nauru
Emma Johnson takes us on a tiki tour of Aotearoa’s latest sensations and ambitions, achievements and explorations.


Childish Gambino’s long-awaited Pharos festival took place this weekend at Tapapakanga Regional Park south of Auckland. While described as ‘overwhelming in the best way’ in the NZ Herald, ‘awesome for imagery if not perfect acoustically’ by Jake Tame, and ‘a music event, meticulously curated by Glover to bring its attendees back down to Earth’ by Madeleine Chapman of The Spinoff, Stuff ran with the headline ‘No water, big lines: Was Childish Gambino’s Pharos worth it?’.

Music with a cause

Luke Buda of the Phoenix Foundation and Don McGlashan joined forces to write a protest song to ‘bring attention to the horrific situation of children on Nauru’. Buda introduces the song on The Spinoff, and talks about being intimidated by the subject matter in this RNZ article. Proceeds from the song will go to the National Justice Project, a pro bono human rights law firm representing many of those children still left on Nauru.

Awards  go south

Dunedin based printmaker Marilyn Webb took out the Supreme Award for excellence in Ngā Toi Māori at the Te Waka Toi Awards on November 17 in Wellington. The awards celebrate achievement in Māori art and recognise a range of artistic practices. Christchurch based children’s author and illustrator Gavin Bishop and Tā Tipene O’Regan, archivist and historian, received awards for lifetime contributions to strengthening Māori art and culture. For a full list of award recipients, visit CNZ’s website.

Former Christchurch Art Gallery Director Jenny Harper will receive an honorary doctorate for her services to arts from the University of Canterbury. Harper was gallery director for eleven years, including the five years the gallery was closed post-quake. Among other accomplishments, she was also the commissioner for New Zealand’s official presentations at the Venice Biennale in 2009, 2011 and 2013.

The first Dunedin Shanghai Screen Writers Exchange kicks off this month with international award-winning film and television producer, writer and director, David Hay, leaving for six weeks in China. The exchange is aimed at experienced screenwriters and presents an opportunity to ‘develop work and build new professional relationships’.

Documenting lives

Photographer Simon Devitt and the subject of his new book, Tony Watkins – ‘architect, environmentalist and all-around maverick’ – were at the Auckland Art Gallery Wednesday night with Nat Cheshire to discuss the art of photography and architecture. Devitt’s new volume of Ripe Fruit, a planned series of eight books celebrating the lives of New Zealand artists, captures Tony’s life through images of his home. You can hear Simon and Tony talk about the book Unconventional Architecture with Mark Amery on RNZ here.

A ‘not-to-be-missed episode’ has just been added to the NZSA Oral History Podcast series. The latest in this series of interviews that explores literary lives and landscapes features ‘underground bunkers, bitter rivalries and murder threats’, as well as poet Kevin Ireland in conversation with Michael King.

Oral historian Deborah Shephard’s new book The Writing Life is a welcome offshoot to the interviews she conducted as part of the NZSA project. Featuring interviews with Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera, Vincent O’Sullivan and more, it captures the intimate writing lives of the post-war generation of writers, or the ‘elders of New Zealand literature’. You can listen to Tessa Dudder and Deborah Shephard discuss the tone and the times captured therein on Standing Room Only.

And for something different in the way of creative lives, listen to woodcarver Andy Mardell talking to Jesse Mulligan about his craft, or Louise Ayling discuss the art of shoemaking with Noelle McCarthy here.

Sounds of change

Seeking to address the gender imbalance in opera circles is New Zealand soprano Madeleine Pierard, who is based in London but back on home shores to perform Beethoven with the NZSO on Saturday 24 November. The stats, as quoted on RNZ, are revealing: ‘8 percent of UK opera librettists are female, 2 percent are composers, 26 percent are directors and 4 percent are conductors’. Pierard talks social change and opera here, and how addressing childcare demands and implementing advance scheduling have already made an impact.

On that note, how much has changed for female composers in 125 years since suffrage? Composer Eve de Castron-Robinson’s Lilburn Lecture ‘Wide Blows our Banner’, presented at the beginning of November and now available here, explores the question.

Meanwhile Annabelle Sheehand, the CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission, announced funding for three features with the prerequisite that at least two of the three creatives working on them be women. Simon Morris asks Sheehand if women need that much encouragement here.

Finally, an audio-described performance and ‘pre-touch tour’ of Actual Fact at The Bats Theatre builds on the play’s themes of communication, according to co-director Isobel MacKinnon. Aimed at those with little or no vision, the audio-described performance takes place Wednesday 28 November – more information here.

Exploring new platforms

Tylee artist-in-residence Julia Holden, who the NZ Herald described as ‘known for her performance painting portraits which at once challenge and pay homage to the tradition of portrait painting’, is set to transform the Sarjeant’s assistant curator Jessica Kid into a painted version of Yvonne Todd portrait Maven Fuller in a live painting event. You can watch the live stream on the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare O Rehua Whanganui Facebook page from 5.30pm on Thursday 29 November.

In Christchurch, Jakob Yikes moves from the street to the gallery to show ‘Bad Company’, a solo exhibition of studio work at the Fiksate Gallery. This well-known street artist’s ‘studio works have increasingly become sophisticated and revealing, exploring both thematic and procedural evolution’ according to Reuben Woods in his pre-view of the show for Art Beat, the monthly Christchurch arts newspaper and website. To learn more about the scene, which has come alive post-quake and, in Charlie Gates’s words, resulted in a ‘world-renowned collection of street art’, have a look at Watch This Space, a charitable trust documenting and mapping the evolving range of works.

‘It’s Crunch Time for Scoop’ reads the open letter to Scoop’s users, penned by founder Alastair Thompson. Scoop has two weeks to go in its crowdfunding campaign, and is calling for support. Alastair asks businesses and organisations who make use of Scoop services - ‘access to professionally curated news intelligence in real time’ and ‘free open access to publish press releases in a high profile manner’ - to subscribe and abide by Scoop’s terms of use, so that Scoop can continue to provide these services. Arts organisations included!

Go for it: opportunities

Someday Stories has opened up submissions for emerging filmmakers for its next series of six-short films exploring the theme of sustainability. The grant offers up to a $10,000 budget to each successful project, as well as a mentor from the industry. Applications are open until 13 December, and more information on the process can be found here.

And last but not least, submissions are now open for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Titles published between April 2018 and 31 March 2019 are eligible. Read more here.


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Image credits, top to bottom:
PHAROS captured by Leroy Beckett for NZ Herald
Luka Buda, Don McGlashen: Kids of Nauru, cover image
Te WakaToi Awards. Photo by Mark Tantrum, Courtesy of Creative New Zealand. Seated from left: Mere Walker, Ta Tipene O'Regan, Marilynn Webb, Ta Pita Sharples, Parekowhai Whaitiri, (Standing from left) Lyonel Grant, Nerys Ngaruhe, Ranui Ngarimu, Gavin Bishop, Isaac Te Reina, Sandy Adsett, (absent Kuini Moehau Reedy)
Simon Devitt, image from Unconventional Architecture (2018). 
Julia Holden and Audrey Baldwin recreate Edouard Manet’s Olympia (1863). The Olympia Performance Painting was a special live event for the opening night of the I’m Your Fan exhibition at Chambers241 Gallery, Christchurch, on 8 March 2016.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

27 Nov 2018

The Big Idea Editor