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Māori festival directors hope to sustain indigenous art for future generations

Natasha Hill, Te Rito Journalism Cadet

Newly appointed co-directors hope to showcase indigenous stories through major arts events.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

The creative force behind some of Aotearoa’s biggest art festivals is about to change.

Tāwhiri: Festivals and Experiences is responsible for the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts, Wellington Jazz Festival, Lexus Song Quest and Te Hui Ahurei Reo Māori o Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

Newly appointed Tāwhiri co-directors Dolina Wehipeihana (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Raukawa) and Tama Waipara (Ruapani, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou) hope to encourage more ngā toi Māori at festivals.

Wehipeihana started her art journey as a young dancer and quickly took on a variety of roles as a composer, producer, arts manager and performer.

She felt drawn to the arts as a child and recalled her first toi Māori exhibition as the kickstarter for her career.

“[I’ve] always been drawn to the power of the arts to be able to connect me to my own whakapapa and my own experience of being Māori in today’s world.

That’s always been a driver for me to be able to share our own stories and help others to share their stories of being Māori and uplifting the wairua and hauora of Māori."

‘Bring the arts to the people’

“It’s being able to see the better future you want for our children and our mokopuna and for all New Zealanders here on this whenua. It’s been the real driving force for me to help bring the arts to the people.”

She was a founding member of the Māori dance theatre company Atamira and still sits on its board.

Waipara, who is co-directing the festival with Wehipeihana, is looking forward to what’s to come when they take on their roles in June.

“Our role is to bring people together so it’s about creating a space where this rich city can play its part in unfolding that story and we as audiences can see and hear and feel each other inside of the brilliant mahi toi that’s coming.”

Waipara was recently made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori music.

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