Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival brings together hundreds of artists for its third year

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival.

A festival like no other, Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival will bring together over 200 artists and performers for the third annual celebration of the arts and the talented East Coast from 8 – 17 October.

Gisborne is a place rich with artistic history and talent, including celebrated performers and artists, both living and remembered. Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival stories are drawn from the expanse of the entire East Cape – linked by whenua and whakapapa – across the motu and the world. From Tūranganui-a-kiwa to Ruatorea, in October, Gisborne and the wider Tairāwhiti region will be alive with performance, arts, music and kapa haka.

A world premiere this year is HIHĪ, a new opera event comprising songs of Te Tairāwhiti, popular waiata operatised, and operatic arias in te reo Māori, which will be performed at the base of Ahitītī in the beautiful Waihīrere Domain Reserve.

Created by the powerhouse team of Teina Moetara, Ruth Smith, Mere Boynton and Tama Waipara, in partnership with New Zealand Festival of the Arts, HIHĪ combines kapa haka, waiata and opera, features a chamber orchestra of New Zealand Symphony Orchestra musicians, and showcases some of the most remarkable Tairāwhiti ‘songbirds’ amidst the exquisite beauty of the natural environment.

The famous Festival light trail Te Ara I Whiti returns. Te Ara i Whiti is an enchanting multi-media installation of light sculptures, projections and artworks which celebrates connection to place. This year, with guest curation by multi-disciplinary artist and curator, educator and practitioner Melanie Tangaere Baldwin, and created by artists connected to the rohe with the support of award-winning lighting designer Angus Muir, a swathe of spectacular illuminated surprises, large-scale sculptural installations, and projections await those looking for a provocative, playful and whānau-focused evening out. Artists include Chevron Hassett, Erena Koopu, Fiona Collis, George Watson, Huia Edmonds and Ngaire Tuhua, James Tapsell-Kururangi, Johnny Moetara, Maungarongo (Ron) Tekawa, Steve Gibbs, Taupuruariki (Ariki) Whakataka Brightwell, Tāwera Tahuri, and Terangi Roimata Kutia-Tataurangi.

New in 2021 is The Festival Club at the Lawson Field Theatre, which opens in bold colours, outlandish style and the pink splendor of the Rose Room. La Vie En Rose (more Grace Jones than Edith Piaf) is a dance party of glam-rock proportions. With an all-night line-up of DJs, special performances and more than a few surprises, this fabulous gathering kicks off on opening night alongside the lights of Te Ara i Whiti.

Festival CEO and Artistic Director Tama Waipara says, “The Festival is a celebration of, and a space to highlight, the abundance of creativity in Te Tairāwhiti. The people of this place and the connection to whenua is what makes the experience so special and unique. Our festival shines a light on what our community is capable of – who we are here and why we are here. And in knowing who we are at home, we can welcome others with open hearts, saying, ‘Come for the kaupapa and, while you’re here, experience something new, step outside yourself and learn something about our region.’”

There is a focus on Māori and Pasifika dance in the 2021 Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival programme. 

Artistic Director Jack Gray marks the 21 years of Atamira Dance Company with the collaborative new work Te Wheke, bringing together leading names in contemporary dance from Aotearoa including Louise Potiki Bryant, Dolina Wehipeihana, Taane Mete, Kelly Nash, Gabrielle Thomas, Kura Te Ua and Bianca Hyslop. With Executive Producer Marama Lloyd, these brilliant choreographic practitioners, and a cast of eight dancers including the renowned Sean MacDonald, explore the dimensions of human experience symbolised by the eight tentacles of Te Wheke— the Octopus, a powerful guardian on this journey from past into future.

Pacific Dance Festival presents two unique dance works, Double Bill: Atali’i O Le Crezent by Villa Jr Lemanu, and ‘XY’ Only by Raisedinland Iose. Atali’i O Le Crezent (Sons of the CREZENT) is a Pasifika memoir of good times and lessons, and a post-it note on the importance of the community.‘XY’ Only pushes boundaries and rules with non-Pacific female dancers performing a traditional fa’ataupati, which is usually reserved and performed by Samoan males. Iose developed it with a chorus from his congregation.

The theatre programme is a diverse line-up of powerful stories. 

Auckland Theatre Company’s The Haka Party Incident by filmmaker and theatre director Katie Wolfe resurrects the eventful day when a group of University of Auckland engineering students rehearsing their annual tradition of a mock haka are confronted by the activist group, He Taua. The incident sent ripples through the nation and changed race relations in New Zealand forever. Coming to Te Tairāwhiti following a sold-out Tāmaki season earlier in the year, The Haka Party Incidentis verbatim theatre that innovatively combines documentary and kapa haka to thrilling effect.

Waipara says, “Tūranga-nui-ā-Kiwa has a unique demography that lends itself to a healthy and robust unpacking of our histories and narratives. The arts present a special platform to be able to examine and consider different perspectives and The Haka Party Incident is a documentary theatre piece that looks into our history in Aotearoa through honest and frank discussion. Presented cleverly and beautifully through verbatim theatre, Katie Wolfe has opened out a kōrero about a time and a place in the continuum of Aotearoa that allows audiences to explore and experience our own stories in a dynamic and powerful way.”

Ka-Shue (Letters Home) is an epic story of love, laughter and loss, spanning 100 years between China and New Zealand. Delivered through the eyes of a Chinese family struggling to resettle in Aotearoa, by actor and writer Lynda Chanwai-Earle, Ka-Shue is a broad sweep of the political events between the two countries is the backdrop for the personal dramas of the five characters played brilliantly by one actor.
Award-winning play, Lip Sync, Kanikani, Twerk Off tells the story of a whānau struggling with a huge loss, navigating womanhood and learning how to bring light to the hard times. It is a message to our rangatahi to speak out, keep hope and have a mean lip sync on the way home.

For tickets and more information, visit www.tetairawhitiartsfestival.nz.

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