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Bringing the joy of live performance back to Tāmaki Makaurau

28 Apr 2023
Bringing the joy of live performance back to Tāmaki Makaurau

A note of thanks from Artistic Director Shona McCullagh

Tēnei te mihi atu ki a koutou katoa, i ō koutou tautoko ki Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki 2023. Me mihi ka tika ki ngā kaimahi toi, ahakoa te momo, i tuku mai i ō koutouwhakaaro, ō koutou moemoeā, ō koutou wawata hoki.

Thank you to everyone who supported Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki | Auckland Arts Festival (AAF) 2023. It was our privilege and delight to bring the joy of the Festival back to Tāmaki Makaurau. Over 60,000 people enjoyed our ticketed and free events, and more than 200,000 passed through our Festival spaces and exhibitions during the 18 days of the Festival this March.

For the first time in three years, we were able to present a full international arts festival – to celebrate cultures from around the world and bring together a selection of the most innovative artists in Aotearoa alongside world renowned international performers and companies. We were delighted to be able to welcome many international programmers to view the work of our local artists, in partnership with PAANZ and Creative New Zealand.

This was the third festival under my Artistic Direction, and together with our Kaihautū Māori, Ataahua Papa, we curated a programme under the theme of “courage” with the aim to uplift, unify and inspire the people of Auckland, Aotearoa, and our international audiences.

From our opening celebration Ka Rewa in Aotea Square, through three uplifting weeks of theatre and dance, live music and comedy, visual and digital art, kōrero, debate and more, AAF 2023 strove to reflect and express the multifaceted world we live in.

New Zealand works took the main stage alongside international works, with ticketed and free performances across a multitude of genres. This included six world premieres, 12 New Zealand premieres, six Australasian premieres and one Asia-Pacific premiere.

We were truly thrilled with the response received to this year’s programme – shows and events that were designed to increase accessibility to the arts for Aucklanders and their families from all cultures and social backgrounds.

Te Rōpū Manutaki performaing at Ka Rewa during AAF 2023. Image: Jinki Cambronero.

Ka Rewa opened AAF 2023, featuring a kapa haka performance by award-winning group, Te Rōpū Manutaki followed by a mass sing along. Stalker Theatre/Box of Birds’ Mountain astounded crowds with their beautiful aerial theatre work integrated with state-of-the-art interactive technology, a FREE event held over the first four nights of the Festival in Aotea Square.

Bill Withers Social Club performs at Auckland Town Hall. Image: Nick Paulsen.

We loved the iconic tunes at the sold-out tribute Bill Withers Social Club, the dual world premieres of Victoria Kelly’s moving Requiem and the rich sound of Ruby Solly’s Ātahu, Whirimako Black’s stellar soul-stirring vocals at He Kete Waiata, and the sold-out performance by spoken word sensation Rupi Kaur – all at Auckland Town Hall.

The exhilarating and mesmerising performances of Sydney Theatre Company’s The Picture of Dorian Gray took the city, the critics and country by storm, and we were enchanted by the electrifying energy of Canadian Kidd Pivot’s contemporary theatre and dance work Revisor.

Judith Hill rocked the Spiegeltent with her family in the band. Image: Andi Crown

In the glittering and exotic setting in the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, we were treated to the stunning performances and musical prowess of a host of artists from Tama Waipara and Judith Hill to Brian Molley with Krishna Kishor, Ozi Ozaa and Eishan Ensemble, along with the outrageously skilled cabaret performers of Blanc de Blanc Encore, which brought Aotea Square to life.

The Savage Coloniser Show sold-out their world premiere season. Image: Raymond Sagapolutele.

Tusiata Avia’s sold-out world première of her fierce and fabulously unforgiving stage-adaptation The Savage Coloniser Show at Q Theatre, and NZ Opera’s premiere season of its genre-defying comedy The Unruly Tourists at the Bruce Mason Centre, both challenged and entertained audiences.

We were thrilled to debut the poignant and potent world première of He Huia Kaimanawa at Te Pou Theatre and honoured to host world renowned Bangarra Dance Theatre’s New Zealand premiere of SandSong: Stories from the Great Sandy Desert at ASB Waterfront Theatre.

Samulnori! The Power of K Rhythm performed at K Fest. Image: Tim Wong.

Children and adults alike were entranced by Slingsby’s Emil and the Detectives, the New Zealand première of Theatre Moksung’s Sugung-ga: The Other Side of the World featuring Pansori puppetry and cello, the magical and heart-warming A Bee Story with its delightful gravity defying acts, and the high energy music, dance and percussion spectacle that was Samulnori! The Power of K-Rhythm.

We took the Festival out of the city to Henderson, Titirangi, Waiheke and Matakana with Sungung-ga, A Bee StorySamulnori!, Pīpī Paopao and Aro: He Wai.

The panel for Toitū! – from left Peter-Lucas Jones, Sir Tīmoti Kāretu, Professor Rawinia Higgins. Image: Andi Crown.

AAF 2023 also saw the weaving of our Toitū te Reo programme throughout the whole Festival, bringing the taonga that is te reo front and centre. Te Katoa, He Kete Waiata, He Huia Kaimanawa, Taipūrākau, and the bilingual discussion panel Toitū! featuring leaders of the te reo language movement, all embodied our commitment to sharing and celebrating this integral part of our culture.

Another FREE event, SPARK Auckland was held at Pukekawa/Auckland Domain on the final weekend of the Festival and approximately 20,000 people marvelled at the thousands of biodegradable sparks illuminating the night sky.

Woven into all of these performances was a comprehensive Creative Learning programme for students and community groups, as well as Accessible offerings which included touch tours, audio-described shows, NZSL interpreted performances, relaxed events, artist talks and more. We also welcomed Japanese/UK Deaf artist Chisato Minamura to our shores with her powerful work, Scored in Silence.

Thank you so much for your support, whether it be through buying a ticket or sharing a free experience with your friends and whānau. Everyone here at Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki | Auckland Arts Festival works with passion to stage a Festival that brings people together, creates moments of joy, and develops a sense of pride within communities. We look forward to seeing you 7–24 March next year!

Nā mātou i roto i ngā mihi,

Shona McCullagh
Artistic Director | Kaitohu Toi


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