How would you describe what you do?
In my day job you could say I produce and support opportunities for others and lead delivery of our city’s arts strategy, Toi Ōtautahi.
As chair of Paemanu the Ngāi Tahu contemporary visual arts trust, along with trustees, I champion and support other Ngāi Tahu artists to create work. We have significant projects underway at the moment including exhibitions at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery (DPAG) and initiating our own artwork collection.
So, I’m lucky enough to work and socialise with creatives.
I do play with clay, with paint and with plants, and I like to write.
What was your most recent project?
In the day job it was launching a pilot screen incubator. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with people working in screen production. We are focussed on the writing side, the story is where it all starts after all. I’m also working on Tīrama Mai, our Matariki festival. We are collaborating with some amazingly talented locals and for me personally, bringing the Ngāi Tahu connection to creation and the stars to life is a real joy.
For the show at DPAG, Paemanu: Tauraka Toi, I created a series of works which enabled me to share the story of my tīpuna, Ema Turumeke. I got to spend some great time with the Paemanu whānau installing in December and dreaming up more projects.
I’m also creating a garden at my neighbour’s place, a take-over of sorts, which has been hard but rewarding work.
I’ve also been writing a whānau whakapapa.
What project have you worked on that you’re the most proud of?
Tīrama Mai-it’s wonderful to work with such diverse and creative talents both in and outside of Council.
Paemanu: Tauraka Toi. Bridget Reweti wrote a lovely piece for the autumn issue of Art New Zealand. In that she lamented that the exhibition hadn’t garnered the attention it deserved. I am a vested interest, however, I do agree. Paemanu influenced every floor and all exhibitions, we encouraged and supported the hire of a Māori intern, and we will launch a new artwork collection. We wrote our didactics and curated or co-curated various shows in the gallery.
The collaboration with DPAG staff was amazing. We’ll continue that relationship through the collection which they will manage on our behalf. The Paemanu Collection will consist of 100% Māori art, be available to hapū and iwi, to arts and education institutes. We’ve already been offered other work, and I think that reflects the approach, the fact that its iwi based and brings those values to the care and availability of work.
What is essential for creatives to have in their life?
Time. Passion. Resources. Support.
Without these things it is difficult to find the focus and the energy to create. It is the difficult thing about a full-time day job, it can take these things away from creating. Of course resources – food, space and money – are necessary. I can’t imagine a world without creativity, I don’t think it exists, but it can be undervalued. Our responsibility is to challenge and counter undervaluing when we can.
What inspires you about Ōtautahi?
The hills, the swamp, access to sea and mountains, the whakapapa of the land and its people (and my whakapapa includes Māori, French, English and Irish).
What piece of advice about your creative work has served you well?
Be open-be yourself. You are sharing a view, an insight into the world. Something like that anyway. I guess don’t hold back and sharing something of yourself was the message.
What’s the biggest misconception about your creative work?
That I don’t make art! It seems it is a bit easy to consign me to a singular box- that of an arts administrator (that might include policy writer, strategist or funding advisor). Are any of us just one thing?
What Christchurch artists do you most admire?
There are a few including past and current residents: Ladi 6, Ariana Tikao, The Bats, Marlon Williams, Mark Vanilau, Ben Brown, Victor Rogers, Tusiata Avia, Juanita Hepi, Lonnie Hutchinson, Ronnie van Hout, Fayne Robinson, Ranui Ngarimu, and Turumeke Harrington (of course). Why? Because of their longevity, or like me grew up in Aranui or are related, because they write, weave, paint, sing and think beautifully.
What artwork/piece of music/performance has taken your breath away?
Again, just one?!
The following have, for various reasons, an enduring presence in my memory:
Artwork: SPECIAL TIME (Ehara i te tī), Turumeke Harrington at Blue Oyster, involved collaboration with Lewis Tamihana Gardiner, Kommi Tamati-Elliffe and Marlon Williams. It was very good.
Performances: Wild Dogs Under My Skirt by Tusiata Avia, Woman Far Walking by Witi Ihemaera –both amazing performances enjoyed in Ōtautahi decades apart.
Writing: I am the Māori Jesus by Ben Brown-what a great poet he is, The Vintners Luck by Elizabeth Knox-I love her writing
Music: Here’s my mix tape picks.
From my Hit Wave ’82 cassette tape Victoria by The Exponents, Emotional Landscapes by Bjork, Tangaroa by Maisey Rika, System Virtue by Emma Paki, Tally Ho by The Clean, I fink u freaky by Die Antwood, What Else is There? by Röyskopp, The Passenger by either Iggy Pop or Siouxie and the Banshees, Roadrunner by the Sex Pistols, Hide U by Kosheen, Smoko The Chats, Jobseeker by Sleaford Mods, Super Ape by Lee Scratch Perry, North by North The Bats, Mustn’t Hurry by Fever Ray, Wandering Star by Portishead, Add it Up by Violent Femmes, French Letter by Herbs, Rebel Warrior by Asian Dub Foundation, Indomitable by DJ Shub, Chaika by Pussy Riot, and Ka Manu by Rob Ruha.
What do you wish you’d have known about creative work when you were younger?
That you could make a living from it if you committed to doing so….did I lack commitment?
What’s your favourite hidden secret in Ōtautahi?
A place? The tracks just on the hills south of Awaroa, Godley Head, and Captain Thomas track in Sumner.