First events announced for the 2022 Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts

The first events announced for the 2022 Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts* (21 February to 20 March) will enable audiences to voyage to the future; connect to histories, land and spiritual realms; and meet writers from around the globe.

Running every two years since 1986, Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts is the nation’s largest celebration of cutting-edge arts experiences based in the Wellington region. Its programme features free and ticketed events including music, opera, theatre, dance, visual arts, literature and more.

The Festival’s early announcements give audiences a taste of what to expect in an adapted programming approach responding to Covid-19, which includes extended seasons running right across the summer, more large-scale Aotearoa New Zealand-made experiences than ever before, and the appointment of an acclaimed Artist in Focus, visual artist Lisa Reihana NZOM, who is bringing a major series of free works to the Festival.

“Our aim was to create an extraordinary Festival for extraordinary times,” says Executive Director Meg Williams, “Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts creates a space for you, your friends, whānau and community. Space to experience an emotional journey, to discover more about yourself and others, and to come together through the arts.

“A number of works will be able to go ahead in Covid-19 alert level 2. We’re pleased to see the vaccine programme ramping up and we can’t wait to bring audiences together this summer,” she says.

Headlining the programme is internationally acclaimed visual artist, Lisa Reihana, who is the Artist in Focus for the 2022 Festival.

Since the 1990s Reihana has significantly influenced the development of New Zealand contemporary art and contemporary Māori art. In 2014, she was named an Arts Laureate by the Arts Foundation and awarded the Te Tohu Toi Kē Te Waka Toi Maori Arts Innovation Award in 2015. In the 2018 New Year Honours, Lisa was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to art.

In great demand since showcasing her large-scale video installation, in Pursuit of Venus [infected], at the 2017 Venice Biennale, Lisa has been commissioned around the world from Australia to Europe and everywhere in between culminating in one of her biggest works for the famous shoemaker Christian Louboutin, which was closed due to Covid just after opening last year.

in Pursuit of Venus [infected] finally comes home to Aotearoa in its full and final form and will be shown at Te Papa from 15 October 2021 until 25 April 2022.

This must-see art experience is supported by Wellington-based, global visual effects studio, Weta Digital, and is a part of a programme of free installations curated by Reihana, running across the region throughout the Festival. A Leader Partner of the Festival since 2010, Weta Digital is honoured to be partnering with Lisa Reihana and helping to bring her dynamic and evocative programme to Wellingtonians and all those experiencing her exhibitions.

Mere Boynton, Director Ngā Toi Māori says: “Lisa is one of our seminal artists and we are proud to give her the platform she deserves as one of the country’s most prolific visual artists and as the Festival’s Artist in Focus.

“Her work explores our stories and history in a way that is engaging for new audiences and for our rangatahi. We are thrilled to bring in Pursuit of Venus [infected] back to Aotearoa to celebrate this internationally renowned work.”

With more new works by Aotearoa New Zealand artists than ever before, audiences can expect to be transported to other worlds and times whilst remaining grounded in this special place we call home.

Audiences of all ages can head to outer space this summer in the immersive arts experience Destination Mars.

The latest interactive encounter by HACKMAN, makers of the hugely popular APOLLO 13: Mission Control, this 45-minute experience is a high stakes space mission set on the planet Mars in the year 2034, in a giant dome environment. High-tech yet full of heart, this is made for grown-ups and intrepid kids aged six and above. At Te Papa from 11 December 2021 until 20 March 2022.

Destination Mars and in Pursuit of Venus [infected] will be able to operate in Covid-19 alert level 2.

Wellington audiences will also have the chance to witness the must-see theatre event of 2021, The Haka Party Incident, which resurrects the eventful day in 1979 when a group of University of Auckland engineering students rehearsing their annual tradition of a mock haka were challenged by the activist group, He Taua. The incident sent ripples through the nation and changed race relations forever.

Crafted by award-winning film-maker and theatre director Katie Wolfe, The Haka Party Incident is verbatim theatre that innovatively combines documentary and kapa haka to thrilling effect.

Described by a New Zealand Herald reviewer during its two week sell-out season in Auckland as “an innovative, brilliant piece of theatre all New Zealanders need to see”, The Haka Party Incident will run at the Festival from 16 March - 20 March 2022 in the Opera House.

Don’t miss the spectacle event of the Festival by choreographer Malia Johnston (Show Director, World of WearableArt) alongside an exceptional team of creative artists and performers. A breathtaking display featuring aerialists, live musicians and dance artists. In BELLE – A performance of air, transformation is created with light, as the performers disappear and reappear like magic.

Running at TSB Arena across nine days, audiences will share the space with performers, moving around the venue bathed in light to experience aerobatics, dance and sound from multiple perspectives. (26 February - 6 March 2022)

Creative Director Marnie Karmelita says the Festival celebrates artists exploring the most compelling ideas of our time in truly innovative and exciting ways.

“As always, the Festival programme is set to challenge and inspire us, as well as bring us great joy. This is just a taste of what’s to come, from sublime moments of the classical canon to the best of the contemporary art world, this programme has been crafted for you.”

Put together by Verb and LitCrawl creator Claire Mabey, the Festival’s Writers Programme this year features a number of world-class writers, some joining the Festival digitally and some in conversation here in Wellington.

One of the most influential economists in the world, and the author of Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism, Mariana Mazzucato joins Aotearoa economist Shamubeel Eaqub for a conversation about the future of economics. Mazzucato will discuss what the future looks like from the vantage point of a global pandemic, the climate crisis, and increasing wealth inequality. (Thursday 3 March 7.30pm, Hannah Playhouse, digital session)

Writer, broadcaster and feminist Clementine Ford hosts, with New Zealander Emily Writes, an outrageously rich line up of speakers to talk about the profoundly complex, terrifying, transformative state that is love. Guests include Dr Siouxsie Wiles MNZM, award winning poet and essayist Fiona Murphy, and more to be announced. (Tuesday 8 March, 6pm, TSB Arena, NZSL interpreted)

In another digital session, the Festival will host New York based sci-fi and fantasy writer N.K. Jemisin. Jemisin is a celebrated author, and the first writer ever to win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel, for science fiction and fantasy. This fascinating session will discuss the ways in which sci-fi and fantasy can illuminate some of the biggest themes of humanity: inequality, oppression and conflicts of culture. (Saturday 12 March, 10am, Hannah Playhouse, digital session)

The 2022 Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts runs from 21 February - 20 March 2022. The full programme will be announced in October. More information at

*Formerly New Zealand Festival of the Arts. The name and brand has been updated for 2022 and including Aotearoa in the title of the New Zealand Festival of the Arts is a contribution to the bicultural evolution of our national culture and identity through the presence of Te Reo Māori.

For further information or interview requests, please contact the Media Team:

Clare Callaghan: 021 260 5000

Sophie Fitzgerald: 022 321 9537


Lisa Reihana: in Pursuit of Venus [infected]


BELLE - a performance of air

The Haka Party Incident

The Haka Party Incident