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City lights up with arts festival riches

Te Ara i Whiti, the light trail has set the city aglow after Friday’s opening of Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival.

Chief executive and artistic director Tama Waipara described the festival as a gathering of creative energy and artistic excellence.

“It’s an absolute privilege to be able to celebrate the abundant creativity of our region at a time where being together has many limitations,” said Waipara.

“We are so proud to present such a rich programme alongside the artists of Te Tairāwhiti who have made it possible for us to come together to celebrate the arts and mahi toi.”

A steady stream of families and visitors turned out at Marina Park and Kelvin Park over the weekend.

At the opening of the festival at Lawson Field Theatre, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to festival supporters as part of her road trip to promote the Covid-19 vaccination programme in rural communities.

The Prime Minister reinforced the importance of access to both healthcare and the arts — and their commonality in regard to impact on wellbeing.

A highlight from the weekend was the full-house sign going up on Whakapaupākihi, a production which mixed the genres of musical theatre and kapa haka. The show was at Lawson Field Theatre on Sunday afternoon.

One audience member dscribed it as “incredible talent, creativity and awesomeness — and such a powerful example of the extraordinarily talented people we have here in Te Tairawhiti.”

Exhibitions and workshops have been a huge drawcard with galleries dotted all over the city showing work by local and out-of-town artists.

A visitor to Professor Robert Jahnke’s exhibition Lamentation, at Maia Gallery, Toihoukura, in Cobden St, said “it was like being in another world”.

He Rau Aroha Gallery on Peel Street had a live demonstration of uku (clay carving) from artist Stevei Houkamau.

The festival team are looking forward to a full week as the programme continues, with the remaining tickets to Sunshine Soul Sessions (Sunday, Lawson Field Theatre, 6pm) selling fast.

IT’S ALL GO: Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival chief executive Tama Waipara with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford at Te Ara i Whiti. Behind them is Mel Tangaere Baldwin’s LED neon sculpture Nightclubbing. Picture by Phil Yeo