25 Jun 2014
I admit I often turn up to events without knowing a whole lot about what will unfold. This is a choice, as the adventure into the unknown is amplified.
So when Haniko Te Kurapa, our Manager of Maori Arts Funding, and I arrived at a Matariki event in Wellington’s Museum of the City and Sea driven by Chamber Music New Zealand we were curious about how the evening would unfold.
Te Ao Mārama had its genesis in the creativity of the Chamber Music intern Keriata Royal*. It was an occasion that doesn’t lend itself to easy or simplistic description. The experience was layered and subtle. It was notable for a range of reasons, and I will share a few of them now.
On the night we were navigated to four different spaces and educated on Māori mythology by the marvellous Rangimoana Taylor. In each space we experienced one of the four stages of the life cycle from the void, to blackness, to life. This journey was made via Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the earth mother) and ultimately to Te Ao Maarama (the world of light.) It was uplifting and affirming as by the end we had made a journey from darkness to light.
Musically it was a feast. At times we heard separately taonga pūoro (traditional Māori instruments); fine chamber music including the New Zealand String Quartet musicians; a brass ensemble; and work from New Zealand composers including Gillian Whitehead, Gareth Farr and David Farqhaur. At other times the classical and Māori traditions joined forces to present music which was remarkable. The musical curation was excellent and the intimacy of the occasion made it personal and intense.
It is incredible to think that for a long time the revitalisation of taonga pūoro has rested on the shoulders of two men, Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns. Their legacy is the growing number of accomplished taonga pūoro musicians and the growing repertoire of taonga pūoro music.
Given the Matariki occasion, it was extraordinary and fitting to experience how well these instruments brought the natural world to life.
Getting cultural collaborations right is easier said than done. When done right, we are reminded that collaborations succeed when everybody contributes what they do best. With expert curation the result is much more than the sum of the parts. Congratulations to everyone for the great experience, and for the thoughtful provocations that are of course consistent with Matariki.
Ka puta a Matariki, ka rere ko Whanui. Ko te tohu o te tau hou ra tenei.
When Matariki appears on the horizon, Vega is in flight. It’s a sign the new year has arrived
*Keriata’s position is supported by Creative New Zealand as part of the Māori Internship Programme managed via Toi Maori Aotearoa.