21 Apr 2022
Mā te pohewa mā te auaha hoki, ka whakapuaki ngā kura e huna ana.
With imagination and creativity a hidden jewel can be revealed.
It’s World Creativity & Innovation Week – an annual, global celebration of all forms of creativity, culminating in World Creativity & Innovation Day on 21 April, an official United Nations International Day of Observance.
While for many of us every day is a creative one, it’s always nice to see an international focus on imagination and creativity, which still struggle for explicit attention in our media, in our policies and even in our conversation.
It’s usual enough to talk about products or activities that are born from creativity – like animation, games or concerts – but the 'special sauce’ of creativity and imagination that underpins it all remains difficult territory. Having a World Creativity & Innovation Week (and Day) helps surface the mysterious essence that brings those amazing hidden jewels out into the open, which is a good thing.
Closer to home, the whakataukī above sets the scene for Toi Ōtautahi, the strategy for arts and creativity in Christchurch, in which we’re a founding partner. It refers to the Ngāi Tahu relationship with pounamu, a unique treasure of the South Island. To the untrained eye, the exterior of the pounamu looks like any other stone in the river, but with skilful crafting, a true treasure is revealed.
Fun fact: it was on 21 April 1971 that the Court Theatre performed its first production in Ōtautahi, and the new home for the Court Theatre is now underway in the Christchurch ‘Performing Arts Precinct’. From that pioneering moment just over 50 years ago to today’s new horizons, it’s widely recognised that a city without art is a city without heart. Having that creative, cultural and artistic fabric is widely seen as an essential part of contemporary urban planning, and indeed family planning!
People want to live in cities with a heart, with art. People know what they like, for example the thousands of Court Theatre goers love theatre and, most likely, the theatre-loving community of which they are a part. What sits behind the performance is likely more of a mystery – the performance or exhibition outcome that is built from a wide range of specialist craft, skills and knowledge. The foundations of these are, of course, creativity, imagination and collaboration.
The focus for World Creativity & Innovation Week this year is on the latter, Collaboration, and what a central part of the creative process that is. Collaborations between artists create powerful, inspirational works of art. The process of presenting creative work relies on many people coming together, each contributing their own passion and skill. Presenting to audiences is also a collaborative act – an interaction between artist and audience that aims to leave both sides invigorated, challenged and hungry for more.
Collaborative work is a deep thread that’s woven through the fabric of the arts in Aotearoa New Zealand, as it is in arts communities around the world.
On the international stage, Paradise Camp by Yuki Kihara opened this week as New Zealand’s presentation for the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, better known as the Venice Biennale. Curated by Natalie King, Yuki’s exhibition is told through the unique lens of Fa’afafine and draws on often untold, marginalised histories of her Faʻafafine community in Sāmoa, highlighting New Zealand’s historical and ongoing social, political and cultural engagement with the Pacific.
Back at home, our collaboration with The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi, All in for Arts—He waka toi e eke noa nei tātou, has also just wrapped up. All in for Arts events feature likely, and unlikely, arts lovers talking about what creativity means to them and their communities. There’s a simple power in gathering together – even virtually – to hear from our fellow ‘travellers’ and learn about how creativity makes such a powerful impact on their lives. The 28 stories from this year’s All in for Arts are well worth checking out, as are those from the 2020 edition.
Often these collaborations involve a fair amount of quiet, unsung work – stuff which happens behind the scenes, to grow and uplift the arts in Aotearoa. Like the many many months of collaborative work with partners and the local arts community that went into Toi Ōtautahi. Like the long, hard work it takes to bring artists to the world stage in places like Venice. Like the deep engagement that’s needed to shine a bright light on the power of creativity in communities around the country.
We treasure the arts and we treasure those who create them. While some degree of negativity still floats about, there’s always plenty to celebrate. Our 2020 research New Zealanders and the Arts—Ko Aotearoa me ōna Toi showed us that more and more of us are recognising the powerful benefits that the arts bring to our lives.
Four out of five of us agree that the arts help to develop and foster creativity, and 40 percent say the arts are important to our wellbeing. Almost a third agree that arts and culture have supported our wellbeing through the COVID-19 crisis. Four out of five young people aged 10–14 say doing creating things makes them feel excellent or good, and 69 percent believe they are very or extremely creative (up 10 percent on 2017).
As a COVID side effect it has been fascinating seeing so many people, with that fluctuating COVID-time dividend, re-ignite their enthusiasm for making, writing, painting, singing, dancing and so on. Participation numbers in the survey show this movement too. The creativity muscle is there for many people, it just needs a bit of exercise and it makes people feel sooo much better about life. Silver linings.
We’ve certainly had to dig into our creative reserves over the past two years, in navigating the pandemic. It’s been a rough road, and we’re not through it yet. As the green shoots start to emerge once again, let’s remember, acknowledge and embrace the powerful collaborations that create, present and support the arts.
E hara taku toa, i te toa takitahi, he toa takitini.
My strength is not as an individual but as a collective.