Nui te Korero: Talking about Diversity

Nui te Korero: Talking about Diversity

Nui te Korero: Talking about Diversity, Wednesday 7 June 2017, Aotea Centre, Auckland.

A Creative NZ Conference attended by Jane Macknight Director and Elizabeth King Curator of Education from the Forrester Gallery, North Otago Museum and Waitaki District Archive. Our trip was made possible with a generous donation from The Otago Community Trust.

We arrived the day before the conference with time to see The Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from Tate at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. This is a wonderful exhibition highlighting the human form in 9 different themes. From Historical to the Modem Nude, The Erotic Body and Paint as Flesh. With paintings by Matisse, Stone carving by Barbara Hepworth, Photography by Cindy Sherman and Rodin’s magnificent marble The Kiss sculpture. A thorough, well curated show. While at the gallery we also saw the Judy Darragh hanging metal installation in the foyer, the Reference Library and Creative Learning Centre.

That night we were lucky to have tickets to the opening night of two plays that are heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The first was Power Ballad at the Basement Theatre created by Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan. This was a very theatrical one woman show like nothing I had ever experienced before! It was fantastic. The second play we scampered to was Jane Doe created by Eleanor Bishop. This was a play about rape culture performed flawlessly by Karin McCracken a lawyer and sexual assault prevention educator.

Now about the conference. We were welcomed by Stephen Wainwright CEO of Creative NZ who started us off by getting us to think about ‘how we represent contemporary New Zealand’. The first keynote was Karl Johnstone a specialist in cultural development for businesses to develop and deliver projects of significance in partnership with other organisations and who is now also a member of CNZ Arts Council.
Karl explained ‘culturalpreneurship’ as the development of cultural capital, by embracing and understanding risk and being innovative. To embrace in a measured way for a sustainable future. His focus was on cultural outcomes that embrace polarities within a framework that challenges conventions by engaging relationships.
The link to his keynote will be added when it is available.

The second keynote was a pre-recorded film especially for the conference by Abid Hussein from the Arts Council England. He talked about seeing the world through his son’s eyes, how we tend to over complicate things but how it is actually it’s very simple. He told us about projects he has done that transform art into living places- a living thing. Abid also talked about working in communities, having conversations and making decisions to give a voice to the community.
You can view his keynote on this link The Creative Case for Diversity.

We were treated to a performance by FAFSWAG - a visual arts incubator for queer brown identities working collectively through multi-disciplinary presentations. Their aim is to build communities from scratch and get hidden minorities included. The collective develops site-specific cultural experiences and arts engagement that speak to the unique and diverse contexts of LGBTQI people from Oceania.

Jane and I both attended different sessions including presentations from Be.Accessible a not for profit consultancy group focused on disability access. Multi-disciplinary artist Lindah Lepou with Christina Jeffery from Tautai Contemporary Arts Trust. Lindah has a residency at Government House starting shortly so it will interesting to follow her progress. Auckland Diversity Fund Projects Whanui Arts Festival coordinator Angela Green and programme Manager Norma Sio-Salapu. They spoke about working in the community to produce four diverse projects. Their focus was about the community telling their stories through the arts. Lastly Emily Trent project manager for the Auckland Museum spoke with publicist Kat Saunders about Being Chinese in Aotearoa. A photographic journey in response to the growing Chinese community in Aotearoa. It was interesting how they targeted their marketing to quite a specific target audience.

We also managed to visit the opening of a FAFSWAG photographic and film exhibition at the St Paul Street Gallery on the AUT campus and caught up with its acting Director and also Linda Tyler, Director of the Gus Fisher gallery.
We saw and experienced a huge range of diversity being delivered in communities in Aotearoa and abroad. There were common stories with similar threads. Diversity is about asking difficult questions, embracing our relationships in our community and always questioning who is not here.

Elizabeth King