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AAF 2023 programme announced

17 Nov 2022
AAF 2023 programme announced

Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki | Auckland Arts Festival (AAF) has today announced the full line-up of events which will bring the joy of the Festival back to Tāmaki Makaurau for 18 days in March 2023.

Waiata, kapa haka, dance, theatre, comedy, cabaret, aerial, jazz, opera, kōrero, sand art, orchestral and chamber music, R&B, K-rhythm, afrofunk, light art, photography and visual arts, Korean pansori, puppets, fire, film, family, infrared technology, Chinese pole art, a biodegradable light event, and accessible performances will all make an appearance…have we missed anything?

While events will pop up across Tāmaki Makaurau – from Waiheke Island to Waitakere, and Māngere to Matakana – many will take place in the Aotea Arts Precinct in the heart of the central city, injecting Auckland once again with colour, creativity and community.

Artistic Director Shona McCullagh says, “Auckland’s arts festival was the first to be established in the Asia Pacific region way back in 1948. More than 70 years later, we joyfully celebrate the return of the festival to the stages, parks and streets of Tāmaki Makaurau after such disrupted years.  We mihi to our local performers and artists who have continued to inspire us throughout challenging times, and we excitedly welcome international performers to our shores from Scotland, Canada, Korea, the Netherlands, Australia and the UK. Get ready!”

The Festival continues its commitment to te reo Māori under the Toitū Te Reo programme as part of Tuia Te Muka Kōrero, the Auckland Festival Trust’s Māori strategy. This strategy guides the Festival’s responsibility to uphold the mana of te reo Māori, including Māori programming and acknowledgement of te reo Māori as both a treasure and an integrated and normalised part of life in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Ten Festival kaupapa fall under the Toitū Te Reo programme in 2023. They include, in the music line-up, Ka Rewa, a free sing-along in Aotea Square, which will launch the Festival on Thursday 9 March. It will officially open with a karakia, ceremony and kapa haka led by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. Whirimako Black MNZM (Ngāi Tūhoe) and a star-studded line up of New Zealand musicians in a one-night-only special event, He Kete Waiata. Tama Waipara will perform his beautiful new album, TE KATOA. Rutene Spooner will bring his popular Pīpī Paopao for tamariki aged three to five, and singer/songwriter duo, Aro will deliver He Wai, a folk, soul, haka and jazz celebration of Aotearoa marine life.

He Huia Kaimanawa is potent performance comprising movement, voice, and virtual technologies, created by Bianca Hyslop and Rowan Pierce. Taipūrākau is mesmerising sand-art performance by internationally renowned artist, The Sandman Marcus Winter.

Toitū! is a panel discussion of nationally recognised leaders in the field of te reo Māori revitalisation, including Dr Sir Tīmoti Kāretu, Māori Language Commissioner Prof Rawinia Higgins and te reo expert Pānia Papa,  delivered in both te reo Māori and English for the ever-increasing number of learners of te reo Māori.

Through the Eye of Tāmaki Makaurau, a partnership with Track Zero in which rangatahi participants are gifted cameras through which they are invited to tell stories of climate change in a free exhibition of their work. And Wāhine is an immersive exhibition at Freyberg Place which amplifies Māori women’s voices from around Aotearoa.

Kaihautū Māori Ataahua Papa says, “Nō mātou te māngari, ā, e harikoa ana mātou i te hokinga mai o Te Ahurei Toi ā tērā tau. Ko te kaupapa e ārahi ana I te hōtaka, ko te māia. We are fortunate and excited to be able to deliver our festival and kaupapa next year after a tumultuous few years. In 2023, our programme is guided by the courage of our arts community.”

SPARK by The Netherlands’ Daan Roosegaarde is a stunning, illuminating event designed to celebrate while caring for the planet. Biodegradable sparks come to life, without the environmental impact of traditional fireworks, in a mesmerising and immersive free event which will close the Festival on 24, 25 and 26 March.

Revisor is the newest dance-theatre masterpiece from genius collaborators Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young (Betroffenheit) of Canada. This sensational hybrid of dance and narrative, which sold out in Canada and London, takes its inspiration from the Ukraine born Nikolai Gogol 1930’s Russian political farce.

The Aotea Square Spiegeltent returns in 2023, but this time it’s the never-seen-in-Aotearoa Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent. International cabaret masters Strut & Fret return as a resplendent company with Blanc de Blanc Encore, a glitzy, hedonistic blend of French burlesque, risqué humour, astonishing aerials and sparkling comedy.

Following the extraordinary success of Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, poetry powerhouse Tusiata Avia will once again partner with FCC theatre company to bring to ferocious life Avia’s acclaimed The Savage Coloniser Book, with a work for the stage directed by Anapela Polata’ivao and produced by Victor Rodger.

Among the major international work is the return of one of the world’s most respected Indigenous dance companies, Bangarra, from Australia, who have not performed in Aotearoa since 2005. SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert is a powerful and deeply moving dance theatre treasure which draws on stories, knowledge and memories to create a new narrative for Indigenous futures. The season also includes Firestarter, a documentary about the incredible and sometimes tragic evolution of the First Nations cultural powerhouse Bangarra on the Festival’s online stage.

Also from Australia is Mountain, a spectacular, free aerial dance and interactive technology performance performed on three containers placed in Aotea Square over the opening weekend.

The Chosen Haram is a multi-award-winning, emotionally candid work about sexuality, faith, addiction and connection that is also a unique and complex take on circus. And it’s spectacular.

Samulnori! The Power of K-Rhythm is a high energy music, dance and percussion spectacle from a company of young, ground-breaking Korean folk artists. Also from Korea is Sugung-ga: The Other Side of the World by Theatre Moksung which tells a version of the classic tortoise and hare fable using charming puppetry and pansori (storytelling) performance.

Scored in Silence is a stunning solo theatre performance which, through British Sign Language, tells the astonishing story of the Deaf survivors of Hiroshima using beautifully crafted animation, movement and sound.

The Spiegeltent doubles as a red hot music venue headlined by Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Judith Hill who blends smokey soulful jazz with sizzling R&B slow jams, stirring Gospel-swells and crunchy guitar grooves. Judith is joined on stage with a blazing band including her Mum on Keys and Dad on Bass. Also in the Spiegeltent are Brian Molley Quartet with Indian percussionist and singer Krishna Kishor; the irresistable 11-piece afrofunk band Ozi Ozaa led by master musician Yaw Asumadu; and the acclaimed Persian jazz band Eishan Ensemble in an homage to the poet, Sufi mystic and Islamic scholar, Rumi.

2023 sees the return of a few treasures that were retained from the cancelled 2022 event. The Bill Withers Social Club starring Troy Kingi, Dallas Tamaira, Rio Hemopo and Lauren Barus will journey the audience through the timeless catalogue of the global music legend, including crowd favourites ‘Lovely Day’, ‘Lean on Me’, and ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Sam Wang (NZ, Australia) will finally get the chance to perform his brilliant, bilingual Skyduck: A Chinese Comedy, in which Top Gun (somehow) meets J-Pop in a rollicking one-man tale of international espionage. And, now in its fourth year, the pioneering Siva Afi Festival will return to Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku after its online 2022 pivot. The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra will perform the world premiere of Victoria Kelly’s Requiem which includes Ātahu – a work for taonga puoro quartet, Maianginui and orchestra by the incomparable poet, composer and musician Ruby Solly; and New Zealand Opera will finally bring the highly anticipated comic opera The Unruly Tourists to the stage.

Choral music lovers are further catered for with The Gesualdo Six, an award-winning British ensemble who will present a rich programme of some of the world’s finest vocal consort works. In a special coming together of two nations, they will be joined by the Auckland Gospel Choir led by Seumanu Simon Matāfai . In Force of Nature, the AAF partners with New Zealand’s iconic Forest & Bird, which celebrates 100 years in 2023. A classical concert comprising some of the country’s finest musicians and atmospheric visual design will celebrate the precious beauty of our whenua, moana, flora and fauna.

The music programme also honours the 50th anniversary celebrations of The Rodger Fox Big Band at the Bruce Mason Centre.

For tamariki, Emil and the Detectives is a super-sleuth romp based on the classic novel which, when first written, was ground-breaking in its kids-vs-the-evil-adults genre. A Bee Story is a classic Adelaide circus gem, always beloved at the Festival, and buzzy tale of environmentalism and spirit performed by Cirque du Soliel’s Robbie Curtis and musician, clown and acrobat Liz McRae.

Best selling author and spoken word sensation Rupi Kaur will perform new unpublished poems and some of her greatest hits as she stops off in Auckland as part of her World Tour.

In partnership with Auckland Theatre Company, a mixtape for maladies is a performed reading of the latest gem from celebrated theatre-maker Ahi Karunaharan featuring an ensemble of storytellers, musicians and dancers

Already announced is Sydney Theatre Company’s one-woman cinetheatre masterpiece based on Oscar Wilde’s ground-breaking The Picture of Dorian Gray starring Eryn Jean Norvill playing 26 different characters.

The visual arts programme includes exhibitions at Auckland Art Gallery (Light from Tate: 1700s to Now), Objectspace (Cook & Company), Artspace Aotearoa (Door, window, world: Maree Horner, J.C. Sturm), Te Uru Waitākere Gallery (Rita Angus: New Zealand Modernist), Studio One Toi Tū (gap [黄馨贤박성환嫦潔] filler; formerlySitting Around the Table), Pah Homestead (Selwyn Muru: A Life’s Work), Corban Estate Arts Centre (Kei Whea te Aute), Te Tuhi (Who can think, what can think) and Depot Artspace (The Realists). At Light Night 2023, for one night only many of the central city’s most iconic galleries will open 5.30 to 8.30pm with live entertainment along the way.

As always AAF offers their award-winning and extensive Access and Inclusive programme that offers touch tours, audio described, relaxed and captioned performances plus a series of artist talks also.

Tickets are now on sale. Explore the full AAF 2023 programme at


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