Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dispatch from Aotearoa

The second annual Matariki Development Festival kicked off on Monday, June 20th, in Wellington, New Zealand. Native Earth and Tawata Productions enjoy a tuakana – teina relationship, an elder sibling – younger sibling dynamic, that has allowed us to offer guidance and advice as Tawata developed their festival.

Hone Kouka and Miria George, Executive Producer and Artistic Director of Tawata, participated in Weesageechak XXI and XXII, working with our actors on Miria’s new plays Urban Hymns (2009) and Sunset Road (2010), both of which went on to successful productions in New Zealand. Last June, they launched Matariki Festival, which is modelled on our own Weesageechak Festival, a week of developmental workshops of new plays by Maori writers, public readings of those plays and a number of ancillary events.

Both years of Matariki, Hone and Miria have showcased a work by a First Nation writer from Canada. Last year, Tara Beagan directed a reading of Two Old Women; this year, Keith Barker’s The Hours That Remain is getting a reading.  Hone and Miria’s thinking is that the Maori writers get the opportunity to see where their Canadian cousins are at in terms of playmaking, to see what issues we share, how and whether our worldviews are similar. 

Another annual event in the Matariki festival has been a korero, a discussion about First Nations Canadian theatre, with the Tawata whanau. This year, while a slideshow of images from Tombs of the Vanishing Indian, Almighty Voice and His Wife, CafĂ© Daughter, Gathering Light, Thunderstick, and Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way looped on the wall of the Circa Two Theatre, the talk turned to home, and primacy of place.  Like us, indigenous theatre practitioners here are without space, and therefore at the mercy of the mainstream producers who do have facilities.  As in Canada, there appears to be a swelling interest in indigenous work here, which is heartening, although it does mean that what gets produced is still being filtered through a certain gaze, because most of the artistic directors here are pakeha, as in Canada.  The news that Native Earth is going to be the operator of the studio space at the new Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre galvanized the assembly, and now, suddenly, all the talk here is about space, a home for artists, for programs, for our stories.

More to follow.

-contributed by Yvette Nolan

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