12 Sep 2017

This content is tagged as Multi-Artform .


Harbour to take centre stage for spectacular opening  of 2018 New Zealand Festival

“Waka carry stories, art, science, knowledge whakapapa and performance. When the waka arrives it seeks relationships, contact and togetherness.” - A Waka Odyssey Creative Team

A mass assembly of waka hourua (twin-hulled ocean-going waka) from around the Pacific and Aotearoa will descend on Wellington Harbour at dusk on 23 February, opening New Zealand’s largest international arts Festival with an unprecedented spectacular work by A Waka Odyssey Creative Team Anna Marbrook, Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr and Kasia Pol.

Developed through a unique partnership between A Waka Odyssey Creative Team, New Zealand Festival and Te Āti Awa / Taranaki Whānui Iwi, tens of thousands of people are expected on Wellington’s waterfront to experience this exceptional free event, as the Capital’s harbour takes centre stage.

Designed to honour and celebrate our shared voyaging history, A Waka Odyssey is a series of events over five days, beginning with an opening night theatrical spectacle to honour the legacy of famous Pacific explorer, Kupe. The choreographed movements of seven waka hourua, eight waka taua, and a fleet of waka ama will bring the harbour to life, while on land actors, choirs and kapa haka groups welcome the voyagers to the Capital.  A 1000-strong new haka for Wellington will be performed, and a full musical score is being composed by New Zealand music icon Warren Maxwell.

Free, community-based opening night events have become a hallmark of Shelagh Magadza’s Artistic Directorship during her six-year tenure at the New Zealand Festival. Like Le Grand Continental dance display in 2016, and The Big Bang drumming extravaganza in 2014, Shelagh says A Waka Odyssey is not a one-off, but involves deep community participation and commitment, and will have resonance throughout New Zealand, and beyond. 

“This stunning opening night event is an amazing way to open our three-week Festival, and we feel privileged that waka hourua vessels will travel to the Capital from all around Aotearoa, with others sailing to us from as far away as Samoa and Cook Islands.  A Waka Odyssey promises to be a poignant and historic cultural event for New Zealand, and is the perfect fit with the 2018 Festival’s themes of journey, home and belonging,”

“The opening night will mark the beginning of a week of activity inspired by waka hourua and Pacific voyaging.  As well as fun activities like a free Whanau Day at Petone Foreshore on 24 February, there’s an extensive education programme associated with A Waka Odyssey, traversing the themes of navigation, voyaging, science, environment, sustainability, and history,” Shelagh says.

The Festival is showcasing A Waka Odyssey with the three talented Creative Directors behind the work: the master navigator, scholar, and Haunui captain Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, the award-winning director Anna Marbrook, and international artist and designer Kasia Pol.

The Creative Team of Marbrook, Barclay-Kerr, and Pol, say their shared vision for A Waka Odyssey is to create a work that will have long term meaning for Aotearoa:    

In the Pacific, our threshold is the mighty ocean. The pre-colonised Pacific viewpoint of the ocean is that of something that connects us all as humans. The waka hourua and their crew give voice to this. As they sail they weave together cultures and histories. And in a contemporary world the waka inspire us not to search for new land but to search for new ways forward as human beings. 


From 23 February – 18 March 2018, come and experience art for everyone, everywhere. On the streets, along the waterfront, in stately theatres, tucked down laneways, on the beach and around the region. Take your pick of world-class theatre, dance, music and so much more to create a fabulous, mind-expanding arts experience just for you. A first taste of the extraordinary opening weekend has just been released [Wednesday 6 September 2017], with the full programme set to be announced on 17 October.

Want the best seats at the best price, and more? Join The Culture Club, New Zealand Festival’s loyalty programme for people who love art, culture and creativity.

Early bird tickets are on sale now. Book fast at festival.co.nz