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Lowdown: Big Announcements & Sad Goodbyes

09 Nov 2023

The latest news from around the traps of the creative community - including one of NZ's top festivals revealing their biennial line-up, important news looming from CNZ, awards, accolades and the passing of a dedicated advocate for the arts.

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BELLE - a performance of air. Photo: Andi Crown.

Christmas may be coming - but so too are the announcements from the country's biggest festivals.

Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts has today (Thursday 9 November) unleashed its full programme for its 2024 event (23 February-17 March) - and it's as epic as you'd expect from one of the marquee events on the creative calendar.

Creative Director Marnie Karmelita is rightly thrilled with the line-up they've put together for the biennial showpiece, which includes free and ticketed events from everything ranging from dance to music, theatre, visual arts and literature, as well as a host of world premieres and eye-catching contemporary art performances.  

“We are back with a global programme which spans the spectacular, joyful and truly breathtaking. This Festival will unite artistic giants with exciting new voices and showcases some of our best-loved performers.

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Dreamgirls Art Collective. Photo: Mirella Moschella.

"The Festival celebrates the joy, energy and community of live performance and art experiences, exploring the most compelling ideas of our time in truly innovative and exciting ways.” 

The tone will be set before the festival proper opens - Taniwha Time Machine, a free visual arts installation created by the Dreamgirls Art Collective of Xoë Hall, Miriama Grace-Smith and Gina Kiel - and supported by cameo Dreamgirl Coco Solid, will dazzle the streets of Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

It's just one of the events that the festival's acclaimed Director Ngā Toi Māori Mere Boynton is taking great pride in, including New Zealand Dance Company's double bill Whenua, the much loved Witi’s Wāhine and Taki Rua Productions' combination of aerial choreography and kapa haka Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: a forbidden love.

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Hatupatu. Photo: Stephen A’Court.
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Gravity & Grace. Photo: Supplied.

“Our indigenous kaupapa for 2024 is about relationships and enabling our Māori and Pasifika artists to fly – literally,” enthuses Boynton.

Another gravity-defying and Wellington exclusive show will see World of WearableArt Award show Creative Director Malia Johnston choreograph an all-female cast in BELLE - a performance of air, with a range of musical performances slated for the festival from the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir to American violinist Johnny Gandelsman, Australian didgeridoo player William Barton and several showings from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, including a sure to be emotional performance of Beyond Words to mark the 5th anniversary of the Christchurch Mosque Attacks.

Festival mainstays like A Slightly Isolated Dog (with Our Own Little Mess), Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken (Gravity & Grace) and the fearless Tusiata Avia (The Savage Coloniser Show directed by Anapela Polata’ivao) are joined by other regular and highly sought after local creatives in curator Claire Mabey and Anne-Marie Te Whiu, Rachael King, Emily Perkins and Emma Wehipeihana among the many literary guests.

With Auckland Arts Festival due to announce their line-up soon - it's a good time to be a lover of creative culture!

CNZ funding changes on the horizon

In what will be a long-awaited announcement, Creative New Zealand (CNZ) is due to soon announce changes to its funding system for 2024 after taking on board feedback from the creative community.

Earlier in the year, CNZ went to multiple locations up and down the motu to ask 'what the future of arts development in Aotearoa New Zealand could look like - with plenty of frank discussion from frustrated creatives at 18 in-person workshops, online workshops and submissions - as well as other correspondence.

As CNZ states "You spoke, we heard, and we are acting now with fundamental, significant change to support the needs of artists and arts organisations more effectively. The arts environment and artists needs have changed dramatically. Our development and funding models haven’t kept pace, so we’ve made big changes to support the arts and artists more effectively, led by feedback from artists at the workshops and the smaller collaborative artist-led ‘working bees’ that followed. 

"We’re excited to share the changes to our contestable funding programmes that replace Arts Grants and Annual Arts Grants."

While the details aren't public yet - CNZ is already opening the doors for registration to online information sessions (15-16 November) and online Q&A sessions (21 & 23 November). Those keen to get in early can find the details on CNZ's website.

Vale Bill Milbank

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The late Bill Milbank outside the Sarjeant in 1994. Photo: Supplied.

The Sarjeant Gallery is paying tribute to former long-term Director Bill Milbank after his passing over the weekend.

A tenure that ran from 1978 until 2006 saw Milbank play a crucial role in helping the gallery grow and his decisionmaking when it comes to programming and collecting still resonates with what it does to this day.

Sarjeant Gallery Curator & Public Programmes Manager Greg Donson rues that Milbank won't be present for the 2024 reopening of the gallery he had dedicated his life to.

In a statement, Donson writes "Bill’s Directorship was marked by a remarkable support of artists, many of whom began their public gallery exhibiting careers at the Sarjeant and have since gone on to become Aotearoa’s leading artists - Philip Trusttum, Gretchen Albrecht, Mervyn Williams, Andrew Drummond, Laurence Aberhart, Anne Noble and Peter Peryer are but a few in that field. 

"As well as having a good eye, Bill knew when to let an artist drive a project and when he needed to fold support around them. He was also well ahead of his time in the inclusion of contemporary Māori practices in the gallery’s programme with the Sarjeant staging some landmark exhibitions through the 1980s and 1990s. He was also responsible for forming the strong relationship with the family of painter Edith Collier and it is because of him that we are permanent custodians of Collier’s work.

"After his time as Director came to an end, Bill established the W. H. Milbank Gallery and, until his declining health forced the closure of the gallery, he remained dedicated to his stable of artists and particularly his long-time friend Philip Trusttum. His gallery was part of Whanganui’s arts community ecology and many local artists were encouraged and supported by him.

"The list of Bill’s achievements is long but we thank him for his legacy, commitment to the Sarjeant, Whanganui and for his unwavering belief in the power of art to change people's lives and the way they see the world.

"Rest in peace dear Bill, you’ll always be with us, stitched into the stone, present in the dome and in the bays of the wings."

Oscar's a legend

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Oscar Kightley. Photo: Supplied.

The New Zealand Television Awards are the biggest night for creatives who produce work for the small screen - and already one winner has been revealed. 

Samoan-born writer, director, show creator, playwright and actor Oscar Kightley has been announced as the 2023 Television Legend to be honoured on 5 December. 

Awards Committee Member Adrian Stevanon explains "Oscar has pierced the glass ceiling for Pasifika storytellers working in the mainstream.  In front of the camera, from comedy, sport, to drama and factual - his contribution has been massive. Behind the scenes, as a writer, director and mentor, his body of work is also significant.   

"He's been a positive Pasifika presence on TV and has always represented the Pacific community with pride.   The massive impact that he has had in the television industry makes him truly worthy of receiving this award."

Instrumental is bringing Pasifika stories, and performers into the homes of New Zealanders for more than three decades, Kightley's decorated TV career includes being a researcher, writer and co-presenter on TVNZ’s Life In the Fridge to being a driving force in the groundbreaking bro'Town along with his many other achievements on stage and screen - in front of and behind the camera.

Arts Laureate Kightley joins television producer Janine Morrell-Gunn, actor and director Ian Mune, television executive Andrew Shaw, Māori broadcaster and journalist Tini Molyneux and veteran producer John Barnett in the Legends Club.

Happy feat for Happy Feet

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John Vaifale AKA Happy Feet competing at the World Final of Red Bull Dance Your Style in Germany. Photo: Supplied. 

Over the last few weeks, we've been following the achievements of South Auckland dancer John Vaifale - better known in the freestyle community as Happy Feet.

Vaifale was Aotearoa's sole representative at the World Final of Red Bull Dance Your Style in Frankfurt, Germany - taking on more than 4,000 dancers from over 45 countries. 

While he didn't win the big one- that mantle going to Waackxxxy from South Korea - he didn't walk away empty-handed, claiming first place at the ‘Build a Team’ battle.

Waiheke Art Award goes local

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 Mike Crawshaw, Last Rites. Photo: Supplied.

Waiheke artist Mike Crawshaw is $10,000 richer off the back of a win just down the road from home.

He's claimed the 2023 Waiheke Art Award for his work Last Rites - beating a total of 93 other entries received from across Aotearoa.

Describing his work, Crawshaw states "It was my intention to invite enquiry into dissonance in our contemporary moment and the pernicious inevitability of disorder. The painting represents an intentional clash of referential systems – of painting’s collision with photography – of news versus real-estate advertising – and of atrocity’s visitation upon zones of exclusivity."

At the gala awards night, the Zinni Douglas Merit Award was won by another Waiheke artist Daisy Saaiman for Ma & Pa 
and the Michael Evans Award for figurative work to Auckland artist Ashlee O'Hagan for The Good Gift

All 27 of the finalists' work is on show at the Waiheke Community Art Gallery until 10 December.