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Cultural activation for Wairoa

A cultural activator has been appointed for the Wairoa district in a one-year pilot initiative.

Alex-Ann Edwards is in the new role as part of the Arts and Culture Covid Recovery Programme established by Mangatu Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

The funded pilot involves cultural sector practitioners collaborating with communities to tell their stories, build their creative skills and connect them with opportunities in the wider cultural sector.

Wairoa was one of eight pilot communities chosen by the Ministry. Wairoa Taiwhenua was the successful applicant.

Gisborne is among the other regions chosen, with Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival Charitable Trust charged with administering the position.

Wairoa Taiwhenua's application was specific to supporting existing cultural and artistic events and communities in the Wairoa district, with scope to build further capacity and relationships.

Chairman Nigel How said the opportunity was a natural fit.

“Our charity has served our community for over 30 years and has a strong focus on supporting local arts and culture. With this resource available from the Ministry, our board fully supported securing it to continue this work.

“There were six very strong applications. An interview panel undertook due process to identify the person who would best fit the advertised role. This led to the appointment of Alex-Ann.

“Her professional experience, combined with her local roots and commitment, is an excellent fit overall. Wairoa Taiwhenua is delighted with her appointment and committed to supporting her in this role over the next year.”

Ms Edwards said she was grateful to Wairoa Taiwhenua for providing this opportunity after 15 years living and working away from home, including as a research analyst for te reo Maori and tikanga and teaching te reo Maori in Hawke's Bay.

Ms Edwards has just returned from Hawaii, where she helped develop an online tourist agency activity.

“It's exciting to return to share my skills and experiences within the community,” she said. “Wairoa is a community rich in culture and our ability to create cultural experiences that are unique to Wairoa is nationally recognised.

“I'm excited a priority of this position is to ensure we offer more unique cultural experiences — like the biennial Pa Haka — to our community.

“Over the coming months, I plan to venture out into the community to connect, open dialogue and offer to work alongside established and new artists and groups, researching the need of a mentoring platform for upcoming artists and supporting local events and projects.

“So, e te iwi, I'm based at the Wairoa Taiwhenua office, and if the need for a korero arises, nau mai, haere mai.”

Her first day on the job was on Monday; her first project, promoting Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori.

She challenged the community to show te reo Maori in action.

“It could be you giving your whakawhanaungatanga (family relationships) so we know who you are, or a simple skit enacting or retelling a picture book or story in te reo. It could be a challenge for the whanau to record themselves using te reo at home while making a sandwich, a cup of tea, a boil-up — bringing te reo back into the home.”

Ms Edwards said she also hoped to hear from local businesses using te reo in their daily interactions with the public.” — Wairoa Star

ACTION: Newly-appointed Wairoa cultural activator Alex-Ann Edwards, left, on the first day of her new position at Wairoa Taiwhenua, with Taiwhenua board member Merianne Orlowski.