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Lowdown: Pasifika Women Dominate Awards

12 Oct 2023

Your arts news bulletin is bristling with good news, big announcements and important developments in the creative community - just when positivity is needed most!

Winners of the 2023 Arts Pasifika Awards. Photo: Supplied.

It's Awards season - and we are here for it.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the creative community heading into an election that could have major impacts on arts, culture and creativity (see our 2023 Election guide for creatives here), it warms the soul to be celebrating those making outstanding efforts in the sector.

Creative New Zealand (CNZ) has announced the winners of this year's Arts Pasifika Awards - ahead of the ceremony being held next week (18 October).

It's the only national awards for Pasifika artists across all artforms, elevating Pacific creative excellence in Aotearoa and globally.

And this year, the bulk of those recognised are female artists  - including the two winners of the Senior Pacific Artist category. Trail-blazing visual artists Lonnie Hutchinson and Ani O’Neill have shared the prize, receiving $25,000 each. The last time two artists were jointly awarded the prize was in 2016 with comedy duo Oscar Kightley and David Fane.

Hutchinson (Ngāti kuri ki Ngāi Tahu, Samoan, Celtic) is a leading multi-disciplinary artist whose sculpture work is held in both private and public collections around Aotearoa and internationally. Her practice and distinct cut-out work focuses on indigeneity in the contemporary world.

O'Neill (Ngāti Makea, Ngāti Te Tika), of Cook Island and Irish descent, is considered a pioneer in Aotearoa’s Contemporary Pacific Arts scene - both as an individual artist and as a key member of the internationally regarded Pacific Sisters Collective. 

Hutchinson comments “I’m grateful to be joining the prestigious list of past winners in this category, alongside Ani. My work challenges dominant patriarchal narratives, highlighting Māori and Pacific Island experiences – so to be acknowledged in this context, amongst all Pasifika artists, is a joy.”

The Pacific Toa Award, which recognises the contribution of a Pasifika artist with the lived experience of disability, has been claimed by Lavinia Lovo - for her passion for Pacific dance and advocacy for Pasifika youth with visible and invisible disabilities.

“The arts have always allowed me to express myself beyond the limits of my disability and this recognition motivates me to continue to support Pasifika youth to push boundaries. The Toa Award means a lot to me, I’m looking forward to celebrating Pacific excellence on the night of the Awards ceremony.”

Caren Rangi, Chair of the Arts Council, emphasises "I’m particularly proud of the fact that many of our winning artists this year are also passionate advocates for the Pacific community.

“Their influence transcends beyond the creative sector – they're not only making outstanding work but also using their platforms to give back. Many of them are educators, Lavinia is also a youth worker and (winner of the Special Recognition Award) Falepipi He Malofa’s creative work began as an opportunity for members of the senior Niuean community to come together. When our Pacific creatives thrive, our whole village benefits.”

Losalia Milika Pusiaki Fifita receives the Pacific Heritage Artist Award for contribution to Tongan Arts in Aotearoa, Niuean multidisciplinary artist Katrina Iosia is the Pacific Contemporary Artist Award winner for her globally recognised work in augmented reality, Auckland-born, Samoan indie-rock musician David Feauai-Afaese is the 2023 Emerging Pacific Artist of the year and the Iosefa Enari Memorial Award goes to classically trained Samoan violinist Hayden Norbert Afele-Nickel.                                                                                              

Vale Lily Laita

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Lily Laita. Photo: Couresty of Dana Meleisea.

While there's much to celebrate in Aotearoa's Pacific arts community - there's also an air of sadness.

Tributes are flowing for Lily Laita (Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, Tanugamanono, Samoa) who passed away aged 54. She was much admired as an artist, an art educator and mother of two, who inspired a generation of Pacific people to pursue visual arts as a career and a teaching vocation.  

Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust were among those honouring her contribution, pointing out Laita was part of the first generation of Pacific artists to study Fine Arts in Aotearoa in the 1980s (going on to complete a Masters in Painting in 2002 at Elam) and emerged onto the art scene as part of the early contemporaries who lead a vast generation of expressive painting and making. 

Her works has been shown at Sargeant Gallery, City Gallery Wellington, Auckland Museum, Lane Gallery, Tu Fa'atasi International Festival of the Arts, Western Samoa's Seventh South Pacific Festival of the Arts and Whitespace Gallery, Melbourne, as well as being part of the VAhine collective alongside New Zealand born Samoan artists Lonnie Hutchinson (a CNZ Award winner above) and Niki Hastings McFall, who were awarded the CNZ and National University of Samoa Artist in Residence in 2012.  

in Tautai's tribute, they noted Laita’s art practice spanned over 30 years of art-making and teaching here in New Zealand and in the Pacific. Karen Stevenson, defined Laita's work and inquiry as “visual language reflecting the complexity and importance of these traditions….” She went on to say, Laita was part of this groundbreaking generation of woman artists, whose “New Zealand born positioning re/presentation of the myth - the clichè - offers a cultural critique and underlies this growing artistic movement. Drawing upon culture, tradition and identity, these women have created a niche that is uniquely theirs”.  

Capture the moment

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John Vaifale AKA Happy Feet in performance. Photo. Graeme Murray.

Some Polynesian and Māori flair will be be centre stage at Aotea Square from today.

In what's been hailed as a groundbreaking dance & film event - Capture: A Digital Dance Showcase (12-21 October) will bring digital and real-life performance together, along with an interactive, audience-directed dance-off with the most talented freestyle dancers on Aotearoa.

Tempo Te Rerenga o Tere, in partnership with Auckland Live, is behind NZ’s first live, outdoor digital dance showcase, mixing experienced performers with fresh new talent, together sharing over 40 digital dance creations using cutting-edge tech, offering the ability to create your own on-screen performance and participate in a real-time dance battle.

It includes Street Dance freestyle collective Projekt Team, headlined by Happy Feet, who will represent Aotearoa at this year’s Worlds in Germany after winning the country’s first Red Bull Dance Your Style national competition.

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Myke Davis-Hoeft aka Matua Myke. Photo: Graeme Murray.

Participant Matua Myke told The Lowdown "To me, it means that I can take my talent from the streets to the live and digital stage and showcase to everyone what I can offer as a dance artist. 

"I can't wait for Auckland City to engage with our creatively designed show, where their decisions will influence my performance and choice of movement, and I love the challenge! What's great about this new format is that each show will be distinct, unique to those in attendance – that's truly exciting, and I'm so glad to be a part of it!"

Tempo’s Cathy Livermore says the event captures a new era of dance-making, after artists were relegated to their living rooms during COVID. Many films being shown were created by dancers who pivoted their artistic expression to a digital medium during the pandemic.

The films will be shown on a giant screen, and in between showings audience members are invited to participate by creating their own real-time, cinematic dance designs through tech developed by the Blob Collective. 

Livermore explains “Dance is innate in all of us, it is our first language; we dance in our mother’s bellies before we are even born. Dance has always provided a social connection and is like a medicine that brings humans together, to celebrate, to have fun, and to enjoy social connections.

“In today’s fast world, it’s too easy to become disconnected from your body, to forget what it is to live in a body and love and enjoy movement. We hope by showing Capture in the centre of Tāmaki Makaurau people will be reminded of the beauty, enjoyment, and sense of freedom that dance can ignite in the human spirit. 

“And we are doing it all through the lens of innovation.”

FAME found 

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Another dance up and comer is $10,000 better off this week.

This institution is one of seven top-rated performing arts schools in New Zealand which are each granted an annual $10,000 scholarship to offer promising students who have completed at least one year of tertiary study.

Sophie Sheaf-Morrison has been chosen as this year's recipient of the 2023 Emerging Practitioner Award, supported by the Acorn Foundation and  FAME Trust.  The $10K scholarship will support Sheaf-Morrison in her third and final year at the New Zealand School of Dance. 

She states the award "will help facilitate my ambitions to pursue my dance career as I explore the dance industry in Aotearoa and abroad. Additionally, the award means that I can continue my external te reo Māori studies at Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa alongside my training to reclaim my identity as a Māori artist.”

Primary schoolers get the Royal treatment

If Sheaf-Morrison is the future, there's plenty of encouragement for generation second-to-next.

Royal New Zealand Ballet has given 70 young dancers the chance to take to the stage with the professional company over the next few months.

The chosen youngsters - aged from 7 to 10 representing 38 different dance schools - have landed roles in their local performances of RNZB's Hansel & Gretel, where they'll play the birds that eat Hansel and Gretel’s precious crumb trail, thereby leaving the siblings lost in the woods.

The season opens in Wellington on 26 October before heading off on a national pre-Christmas tour through Napier, Palmerston North, Invercargill, Dunedin, Christchurch and Auckland.

RNZB’s Ballet Master Clytie Campbell - who herself performed with the organisation as a child - says, “We were so impressed by the level of talent among the young dancers and thank all their parents and the teachers, from so many dance schools, we met over the course of the auditions. It’s a big deal for these young performers and they have wonderful support. 

"Many of our 2019 Hansel and Gretel child dancers have gone on to see further success in their personal dance journeys, such as competitions and mentor programmes, so we hope this boost in confidence and experience can support our 2023 dancers in similar ways.”

It comes as RNZB announce their 2024 season, with some popular productions and renowned choreographers.

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RNZB performers. Photo: Supplied.

The much-loved regional fixutre Tutus on Tour will visit Kāpiti, Ashburton, Gisborne, Oamaru, Hastings, Wānaka, Taupō, Tauranga, Blenheim, Whangārei, Nelson and Hamilton through February and March,  before touring the quintessial Swan Lake to the main centres in May and June, a production not seen on our shores with RNZB since 2013.

August sees the debut of Solace: dance to feed your soul, premiering three new and recent ballets by highly-regarded choreographers Wayne McGregor, Sarah Foster-Sproull, and Alice Topp, before A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 24 October to 9 December.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) has announced its 2024 season – a choreographic celebration and elevation of RNZB friends, fellows, and favourites, which includes the return of two classic productions, alongside the New Zealand premiere of a Wayne McGregor phenomenon, two new works created especially for the company, and a nation-wide Tutus on Tour season-opener.

RNZB Acting Artistic Director David McAllister says, “Our 2024 season is a choreographic opus – a homage to deeply valued RNZB choreographers who have passed, and a celebration of some of the best in the world right now, including two Aotearoa New Zealand favourites who have created new works for and with us. The 2024 season is in good hands with RNZB’s incoming Artistic Director Ty King-Wall who has a deep understanding of and connection with all the works."

Artist Resale Royalty Scheme calls collect

The next step in the long-discussed Artist Resale Royalty scheme in Aotearoa is in sight.

For anyone playing catch up, it's due to see visual artists get a slice of the action when their work is resold on the secondary art market. Currently, when an artwork is resold, the original creator (or their estate) doesn't receive a cent. 

The scheme will be managed by a collection agency who collect the royalties on resales, and then distribute them to the artist - and Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) has kicked off the process of appointing a collection agency.  

The agency will be a non-profit, non-government organisation, and must be able to undertake the role and functions under the scheme’s legislation - while MCH will be responsible for monitoring the performance of the collection agency. 

The collection agency will need to be able set-up and start administering the scheme by December 2024 and must hold a current New Zealand Aotearoa legal status, can't operate for the purpose of profit-making and must have experience in the collection and distribution of funds from/to third parties. 

MCH Deputy Chief Executive Joe Fowler told The Lowdown "We want to make sure that potential applicants understand what the collection agency will need to do and the vital part it will play in the Scheme. 

"That’s why Manatū Taonga is hosting three applicant briefings over the next two weeks. The applicant briefings will be a space to ask pātai and have an open kōrero about what’s involved. If you’re interested, or even on the fence, please come along and see what it’s all about." 

MCH will open the procurement process for the collection agency after the online briefing sessions on 19, 24 and 27 October - you can register to attend by emailing [email protected].

Best of the Best 


Pins and a party - but no donkey tail in sight.

The Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ) Best Design Awards were a glitzy affair with hundreds on hand to celebrate excellence, innovation and creativity in Aotearoa.

Instead of trophies, the top prizes come in the form of pins (see above) - with gold, silver and bronze awarded in eight categories - and the overall top prize of the purple pin.

Those purple symbols of success sent to Blunt by Milk (Graphic), The DJ and the War Crimes by Gladeye (Digital), Special Group (Moving Image) Air New Zealand (Product), RCG ltd (Spatial), Escea Ltd (Public Good), TOA Architects (Toitanga) and Zuru Edge (Value of Design). 

There is some pretty incredible work being dreamed up and created on our shores - it's well worth taking a look through the winners and finalists mahi (you can find it here).

This year's DINZ Best Design Awards. Photo: Supplied.

Cathy Veninga, Chief Executive of DINZ states “I can speak on behalf of this year’s convenors and judges when I say we were blown away by the calibre of entries, and it’s energising to see Kiwi design go from strength to strength, even on a world stage.

“The winning projects told important, engaging stories and dealt with confronting themes, offered innovative solutions to real problems, and pushed the boundaries of what design can do, whilst showing exceptional technical craft. It’s a privilege to bring the DINZ community together.” 

The most illustrious pin of all is the Black pin - only handed out 56 times since 1995 - with the two latest additions honoured at the Awards.

Desna Jury received the Designers Institute Black Pin - awarded to a member of the Institute who has made a lasting and valuable contribution to the design profession and design culture in New Zealand. 

Jeremy Moon was honoured with the John Britten Black Pin - awarded to a designer for their leadership, vision and achievement both in New Zealand and internationally.

Creativity every day

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Caitlin Moloney as part of Creativity every day. Photo: Supplied.

Wellbeing and the arts go hand in hand, so it was fitting on World Mental Health Day (10 October) that Creative Waikato launched an initiative to show others how big a difference a little creativity can make.

Creativity Every Day sees 30 Waikato-based artists, musicians and performers commissioned to design one activity aimed at growing creativity and creative thinking at work.  

Creative Waikato CEO Dr. Jeremy Mayall explains, “The concept behind this resource is to open the door to creativity for people with any level of artistic skill – including none at all! We wanted creativity to be something people can engage with every day, to embed itself meaningfully in people’s lives in a way that feels as natural as drinking a morning coffee, replying to an email, or going for a lunchtime walk.

“We know that arts and creativity can be hugely beneficial in times of stress and unrest, especially, and that creative thinking is one of the most fundamental elements of being human, yet workplace systems too often take most of us further and further away from that which drives creativity. Encouraging employees and workplaces to make time for creativity can serve the individual but also, by providing opportunities for curiosity and innovation, can also serve the wider goals of many organisations.”

They range from coffee painting, email poetry, taonga puoro with office items, and paperclip sculpting from a range of creatives like writer Tracey Slaughter, composer Horomona Horo, playwright and theatre-maker Cian Parker, poet Essa May Ranapiri, tattoo artist/illustrator Ali Selliman and sculptor Gaye Jurisich.

It's grounded in 2022 Creative Waikato report found of nearly 1,000 residents of the Waikato region surveyed, engagement with arts, culture and creativity was found to be strongly connected to a sense of belonging, and feeling connected with others and to the land. Any form of engagement in artistic or creative experiences, either individually at home, attending an event, or creating or participating in art and culture, was found to be positively correlated with overall wellbeing.

Short success

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Yan Lin performing in  Lǎo Lao Lǎo Le. Image: Supplied.

The winners of New Zealand’s largest and most important short film awards were announced at a prize ceremony on Sunday 8 October. The Show Me Shorts Festival has just opened - and the awards are already handed out.

And the big winner was film Lǎo Lao Lǎo Le, taking home three of the eight trophies on offer.

Director Julie Zhu won Best Director, while her producing team Jazz dos Santos, Puteri Raja Ariff, and herself were also awarded Best NZ Film, which is an Oscar-qualifying category. The 9-year-old lead Yan Lin also shared best Actor with Prabha Ravi from Anu.

Zhu told The Lowdown "It’s a cliche but we really didn’t expect to be nominated, much less win. We didn’t get accepted into NZIFF where some of the other shorts competing had, so I thought there really wasn’t a chance we’d win. 

"This short has been a very long labour of love and pain, I first started writing it almost 10 years ago and then just had it on the back burner and didn’t think I’d ever make it. There were numerous funding app rejections and setbacks, and it just felt too hard so many times. 

"Putting ego aside and asking for crowdfunding support in 2021 was what determined it would get made I think, having to be public and accountable to your community. I don’t believe the director is ever solely responsible for what ends up on screen so this win really belongs to all of the cast, crew, and our wider community of supporters."

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Julie Zhu. Photo: Supplied.

The jury stated “Lǎo Lao Lǎo Le is the type of film that balances the light and dark of the human experience splendidly. It lays bare the struggles of a young boy tasked with the care of his ailing Lǎo Lao, who is losing her mind to Alzhemiers. It’s a short film that is full of struggle and fight, connection and loneliness, love and hate. It is many things but, above all, it is undeniably moving and a film that will stay with the jury for some time to come.”

Te Reo Māori language film Te Whakawhitinga won the Best Editor award with Jeremy Leatinu’u & Ian Powell, Best Cinematographer went to Marty Williams for the second year running, this time for The Ballad of Maddog Quinn

Writers recognised 

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A pair of NZ authors have received a moment in the spotlight.

Dunedin's Laurence Fearnley (above) has won the New Zealand Society of Authors' Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship for mid-career or senior writers with a substantial literary track record of publications. 

Fearnley will use the Fellowship to continue work on the fourth of a series of novels based around the five senses, with the working title The Palette Club (A tender violence).

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NZSA are also congratulating Tom Doig (above) for winning $25,000 Writers’ Award - presented in partnership with Copyright Licensing New Zealand (CLNZ) for his project, with the working title We Are All Preppers Now: Kiwis Making Plans for the End of the World.

Tom Doig says “This is the third time I have applied for this award! It just goes to show: hang in there, 'try and try again', all that good stuff. Ngā mihi nui to CLNZ, NZSA and the judging panel for recognising my mahi, and giving me the chance to go hard on the manuscript in 2024. Kia ora!”

Circus comeback

Altiora Director Danny Lee Syme. Photo: Supplied.

Christchuch is seeing a circus revival - with The Arts Centre partnering with anew tenant in the former gymnasium.

Cirko Kali is running the space as Altiora – a venue for alternative cross-genre performing arts, such as cabaret, burlesque, and circus. The name, Altiora, comes from the inscription in stone above the main entrance urging students to Seek Higher Things.

The plan is run a monthly cabaret to complement the workshops, training sessions and other performances throughout the week, officially opening Friday (13 October) with Carnival Alley.

Director Danny Lee Syme explains “Altiora is an affordable dedicated accessible public venue and permanent home for circus, physical theatre and performers in Ōtautahi, bringing comedy, cabaret, drag, circus, burlesque, indie music and dance to new and diverse audiences, as well as a venue for education, development, practice, experimentation and teacher training. The benefits will be hauora (wellbeing), capability development, access (for people with disabilities), and audience development.”