04/10/2019 - 04/10/2019

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

Explore the edges of Tairāwhiti flair at our premiere opening night – Māui Pūtahi – kai, performance and stories of our place.

From the time Māui used the wisdoms of Murirangawhenua and founded this land-mass, lifted Hikurangi from the sea, and captured time and light, Te Tairāwhiti has been the home of challenge, synchronicity, and innovation. We are natural artists by absorption as a consequence of living this context.

Set at the confluence of the Taruheru, Waimata and Tūranganui rivers – this is an invitation to explore the edges of the Tairāwhiti flair at our premiere opening night event – Māui Pūtahi.

Produced by local creative powerhouse, director and artist, Teina Moetara, Māui Pūtahi celebrates diversity of language, form and culture. This event is part performance, part ceremony, part interactive experience, and is alcohol-free. So, bring a blanket, a picnic, and an appetite for local stories, exceptionally told.

Friday 4th Oct 2019
5:30pm – 8:30pm

Theatre , Te Reo Māori , Spectacle , Outdoor ,

3 hrs

Life as art and art as life with its darkness and light

Review by Nikau Hindin 06th Oct 2019

There is nothing novice about the first ever Tairāwhiti Arts Festival Opening,Maui Pūtahi, kicking off a month of theatre, dance, art, film and installation. Tamariki, rangatahi and pakeke are all oohing and aaaahing at the lights, the wai and the voices weaving together a magical evening.

Situated between the three awa – Taruheru, Waimata and Tūranganui – the premier Opening of Te Tairāwhiti is brimming with whānau who come prepared with beanies, blankets and bean bags. Since moving here in February I have come to realise that Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa is a town that turns up! 

It is relaxed festival vibes along the river with performances happening ki ia moka, at every corner: ukelele, fire dancers and soulful acoustic melodies by Pounamu Wharehinga.

People flow freely between the banks of Taruheru awa, queuing for a famous Smokey Bro’s Burger or watching the local warm up acts. I see lots of kai wrapped in kete baskets and note the absence of polystyrene. Ka pai Te Tairāwhiti!

Towering black boxes stand seemingly scattered on the East side of the river. These enormous cuboid screens are casually playing interviews with the likes of Mark Kopua and festival director Tama Waipara.

As the shadows become longer and the sun sinks behind the hills, in the distance I see Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern giving Tama Waipara a warm embrace, a sign of the formal opening, and I anticipate things are going to start heating up – or rather cooling down as the clear blue crisp afternoon slips into a dusky evening. 

A flock of toroa dressed in white linen, wielding staffs topped with flapping albatross, dance through the crowd, swooping and soaring between people. With their manu feet and beaky movements, they are beckoning audiences to the East side of the river.  

Children sit with their legs dangling over the side of the river wall, others spread out on blankets as I realise the large black boxes, evenly spaced along the river bank are both a stage and screen. As the crowd settles the four cuboid screens light up – with a sunset or a sunrise? Gulls sweep across them and a pūtātara rings out. The fiery pinks soften to liquid blues and Masey Rika, in flowing blue silk, rises to the top of the cube to sing ‘Tangaroa’, one of her most loved songs, about the power of the ocean deity and our connection as a seafaring, coastal people. The moon is high above her and, as always, she mesmerises the audience as the sky darkens.

As Masey Rika’s piece finishes, the cuboid closest to the bridge lights up but all I can hear is the deep rolling voice of Papatūanuku. Searching for the source I skip through the crowd to find her smiling wise face looking down at us. Her message is clear: we need to look after her and protect the earth. The visuals accompanying her beautiful voice are soaring drone shots of Hikurangi maunga and the East Coast.

The male elements follow. A Tāne wearing hiking gears draws our attention to the ngahere (forest) and whetu (stars). He has an impressive musical theatre voice.

A local rangatahi stands on the cube closest to the river; he talks about the struggles of moving to a big city, climaxing to a dark outburst of energy. Is he the modern day Maui, searching for solutions to modern dilemmas? While it is confronting there is sense of agreement because he is speaking on the issues that impact young people. Accurate reflection of our current state.

The running theme is life as art and art as life with its darkness and light; that we are all creators and storytellers. Art provides space to release and contemplate.

“There is a Maui inside of each of us. To be challenged, to fail and to push through. Turanga, Te Tairāwhiti, marangai mai, maranga mai.” 


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