Massey University, Wellington Campus | Te Ara Hihiko, The Pit, Wellington

15/06/2018 - 15/06/2018

Kia Mau Festival 2018

Production Details

SaVAge K’lub members isshboys and Sistar S’pacific, come together for a night of myth and manifestation. Part art part body part, weaving movement, spoken words, moving image, food and conviviality.

Tusks and Fevers honours the celestial, earthly, genealogical and queer bodies crisscrossing between the past and the present to celebrate Matariki. 

Written by James Waititi, Julian Chote + Rosanna Raymond Tusks and Fevers is presented by SaVAge K’lub. Featuring issheboys + Sistar S’pacific, you are invited to BYO regalia. Tusks and Fevers is directed by Rosanna Raymond.

Massey University, Wellington Campus | Te Ara Hihiko, The Pit
Fri 15 June 2018


Theatre , Multimedia , Performance Art ,

Oscillating between constructs

Review by Sam Trubridge 17th Jun 2018

Kia Mau Festival is now in its fourth year of presentation. Over this time it has become a landmark event in the Wellington arts calendar, providing a rich programme of theatre, dance, and performance that draws on Mana Māori, Mana Pasifika, and indigenous voices worldwide: such as this year’s Deer Woman and last year’s NeoIndigenA from Turtle Island (Canada). This year’s programme is also distinctive for the broad range of performance styles being presented: from a community production of Waiora (started as a class assessment at Whangarei Girls High School), to verbatim theatre (Barrier Ninja), spoken word (Fouvale Imperium), dance, theatre, and performance art (with SaVAge K’lub’s work Tusks and Fevers).

Presented at Massey University’s The Pit venue, Tusks and Fevers gathers writings by James Waititi, Julian Chote, and Rosanna Raymond in a performance that uses audio-visual imagery, spoken word, and a ritualistic staging described as a ‘night of myth and manifestation’ connected to the celebration of Matariki. Raymond is a significant Samoan artist and academic, an Honorary Research Associate at University College of London, and recipient of a recent award by the Metropolitan Museum in New York. In Aotearoa she is possibly most well known as one of the Pacific Sisters, a collective of fashion artists and designers that has electrified and unsettled the scene since the 90’s with their amazingly constructed costumes and distinctive performance fashion shows / happenings. A highlight of any visit to Te Papa’s new Toi Artgalleries is a stunning retrospective of the Pacific Sisters’ work, on until 15 July. 

Tusks and Fevers uses performance to animate the rich language of the text, eclectic costuming, and video with the live presence of three performers: Sistar S’pacific issheboys, and Rosanna Raymond. They each recite, move, and undress through a sequence of scenes as the audience sits around the edges of the space on stools and beanbags. The video plays often through scenes, or as interludes between spoken passages.  The performance and theatricality is often stronger in these pre-recorded sequences – where materials are used inventively and resonant imagery is composed for the camera. In one black and white photograph, Raymond kneels in a city street, naked except for her tattoos and a black leash around her neck. The leash hangs slack, and she fixes the camera with a defiant gaze. In the live performance she hisses at us and opens her eyes wide with a similar defiance. This is her ‘Full Tusk Maiden’, a flipside of the ‘dusky maiden’ trope constructed around Pacific women. Orbitting her pivotal stage presence, the other two performers oscillate between constructs as well – bodies that move between male/female denominations, between racial stereotypes (with black, smudged hollows of the eyes and mouth), and between mythical historical or fantastical resonances.

A concept that emerges often in the discussion of Pacific art and cultural theory is that of Vā/Wā. This term informs the meaning and etymology of words like ‘wāhine’ among many others in various Pacific languages, even as far as Japan. It denotes a space/state of transformation, of in-between-ness, and flux. It is an oceanic, pelagic concept rather than terrestrial. In one moving sequence Raymond talks of an almost sexual encounter with Tangaroa, moving from the space of the sea’s edge and reef into the forest (Tanemahuta) to embrace the earth as well. This seems to be the focus of this series of spoken-word tableaux and video interludes that makes up Tusks and Fevers: to ritualistically embody or index this state of changeability, sexual ambiguity, and transformation. It occurs at a time marked as the New Year in Māori calendars – enacting a state of metamorphosis, and transition. The destinations or intent behind this is not implicit the work. Instead we must be with this mobility in a number of ways as an audience, then emerge from the performance to eat and drink together some more. This is perhaps the ritualistic character of the work, where meaning or narrative plays a second role to a shared experience, an empowerment of changeability, to mark a particular moment in time or attitude.  

In a recent conversation it was revealed to me that Te Whanganui-a-Tara is considered by local mana whenua as a place of astrological significance. Wellington’s landmarks often have the root ‘rangi’ in their names, referencing the sky and the weather. This specific location, alongside the advent of Matariki, suggests a significance to time and place that this performance (and Kia Mau in general) holds. The antipodean seasons in our southern hemisphere leaves this midwinter time of regeneration and change free of appropriation by colonial rituals or Christian cosmologies. Instead there is rich space for the Vā/Wā as a guiding principle, and for unique, relevant, new festivities and events to be shaped that celebrate this important time of the year.

This same evening was marked by the vibrant ReCut event in Civic Square, the headline title for our local newspaper being printed in Te Reo, and the last weekend for the Kia Mau festival. It feels that SaVAge K’lub and Raymond’s unique blend of ritualism, metamorphism, and sophisticated cross-disciplinary performance has a lot to offer this context.


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