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The Gospel of Ahi Karunaharan: Advice to my 22-Year-Old Self

Ahi Karunaharan
Tips from the edge: your tribe, your artistic whakapapa, and the miracle of gaffer tape.


Ahi Karunaharan has the coolest day job in town, working in the programming team at Basement Theatre. So we sat him down and got him in touch with his past. "Mate" he said. "We need to talk." So he did. And we listened. So should you.

On culture

  • Difference is not a burden.
  • Figure out how to hold on to your traditions.
  • Learn to navigate your art in new environments.
  • You’re an artist of colour: don’t shy away from that.
  • Reach out to others who are ahead of you.
  • Be the person you needed when you were younger.

On surviving the business

  • Gaffer tape is your friend.
  • The show must go on.
  • Don’t pressure yourself to turn out work.
  • ​You are not alone. So don’t act like it.

On the voice of the artist

  • Your voice matters.
  • Know what you’re saying, who you’re saying it to and what you want them to feel.
  • Don’t apologize for your art.
  • Don’t compromise on your integrity.
  • See work that isn’t made for you.
  • Make friends with artists from other disciplines.
  • ​Make friends with non-artists as well.

On rolling with the punches

  • Write your own reviews for shows you are yet to make.
  • Find a balance between your work and play.
  • Visit more galleries.
  • Read / listen/ observe more.
  • Find your tribe.
  • Learn to say no.
  • Don’t try to please everyone.
  • ​A review is just a subjective opinion.

On the artist within

  • Be kind to other artists.
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Leave it alone.
  • Painting and mopping the floor to OK Computer is therapeutic af.
  • Put more value into people and relationships.
  • Be more strategic.
  • Have a vision.
  • Map out your future.
  • ​Know your artistic whakapapa.

You'll be able to hear more words of advice from Ahi (along with twenty-odd other south Asian artists) at First World Problems, "a kaleidoscopic representation of form and content that speaks to us now in Aotearoa through a South Asian lens”. Basement Theatre, 17 - 21 July, Book here

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

9 Jul 2018

The Big Idea Editor