Mere Boynton's Festival Programme

16 November 2023

With the full 2024 Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts programme now live, I asked Mere Boynton, the Festival's Director Ngā Toi Māori, to share a little something about the events she selected and what audiences can expect from them.

Tēnā koutou,

I’m excited to share some kōrero with you about the programme I have curated with my colleague Marnie Karmelita for the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2024. Enjoy the read and I hope it inspires you to come and see some awesome mahi toi.



Dreamgirls Art Collective: Taniwha Time Machine

Renowned for their “breathtaking and purposeful” (Ensemble) artworks across Wellington and Aotearoa New Zealand, Dreamgirls Art Collective aka Miriama Grace-Smith, Xoë Hall and Gina Kiel, will transform the Wellington Waterfront with a 26 metre long art installation. They will bring the kōrero tuku iho (the ancestral story) of Ngake and Whātaitai the great taniwha who created Te Whanganui-a-Tara back to life in a way that only they can – larger than life, bursting with colour, complete with... a disco dance floor.

And that’s not all, a sparkling phone booth created by cameo Dreamgirl Coco Solid (Ngāpuhi/Samoa) beckons – lift the receiver, dial into the ‘Hotline to the Divine’ and see what happens... you could find yourself connecting with a whole new dimension.

Tararua: Bird Like Men

Tararua ‘Bird Like Men’ is a taonga pūoro ensemble that fuses the incredible artistry of Ariana Tikao, Ruby Solly, Alistair Fraser, and Phil Boniface, with mesmerising imagery by Kāi Tahu video artist Louise Pōtiki Bryant, Tararua weave together sound worlds from te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā with touches of jazz and folk.

Bird Like Men is described by lead vocalist Ariana Tikao as a personal “exploration of whakapapa and connections through music”; it draws inspiration from Māori rock art depictions of bird people at the Maerewhenua site in Otago, whānau manuscripts of her ancestor Tīkao and kōrero (conversations) from her iwi Kāi Tahu.

Witi’s Wāhine

‘If you had to see what my heart looked like, all you had to do was come to Rongopai’.

This production of Witi’s Wahine is staged in Rongopai the wharenui that was built by the people of Waituhi in 1888 to welcome Te Kooti prophet of the Ringatū Church. This is the perfect setting for this play as it has inspired many of Witi Ihimaera’s writings. For me Witi’s Wāhine is a must see if you are a lover of theatre. I love it because it is about the strength of women and the mana of our kuia in Te Tairāwhiti. The Nannies, Aunties and mothers portrayed in the play were transferred from the books of Witi Ihimaera, books like Pounamu Pounamu, The Matriarch and The Whale Rider to the stage by the late Nancy Brunning to be shared as a reminder of the importance of wāhine Māori as the glue that binds our whānau and communities together with aroha and resilience.

The Savage Coloniser Show

Please leave your fragility at the door. Come with an open heart and mind because The Savage Coloniser will challenge your perception of yourself, your culture, your country, and your world. This is one of the best plays I’ve seen for a while. It made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me rage, I ran the whole gamut of emotions. The poetry of Okham award winner Tusiata Avia is sharp and brilliant and the staging by director Anapela Polata’ivao and producer Victor Rodger is slick.

Chamber Music New Zealand: Barton and Brodsky

I am excited for this chamber music performance which will feature leading Australian didgeridoo player and composer William Barton (of Kalkadungu descent) with the world-renowned Brodsky Quartet from the UK.

They will present an eclectic programme which traverses time, including Barton’s own music, the New Zealand premiere of Andrew Ford’s String Quartet No 7 written during the 2019 Australian bushfires, to Janáček and Stravinsky.

A true master of his craft, regarded for his incomparable and awe-inspiring performances, Barton has performed with the world's most esteemed orchestras. This musical fusion of two exceptional talents is not to be missed.

Taki Rua Productions: Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love

I can’t wait to see the Tāwhiri Warehouse transformed into ngāhere, a forest world where Kurungaituku the bird woman keeps the young Te Arawa warrior Hatupatu captive. I am excited for the audience to be transported and fully immersed in this theatrical aerial experience created by choreographer and director Tānemahuta Gray. Aptly named Tānemahuta the god of the forest, Tāne is a man who creates spectacles and worlds for our heroes of this whenua to inhabit, to inspire and uplift us to new heights.

I just saw a presentation of the second workshop of this work, and it is magical, immersive story telling.

New Zealand Dance Company: WHENUA

WHENUA is a double bill of two contemporary Māori choreographers at the top of their game presented by the New Zealand Dance Company. Eddie Elliot is a fearless and visceral choreographer of Waikato-Tainui descent. He was first drawn to my attention by Dolina Wehipeihana as a Māori choreographer to watch. Yes his work is raw, yes his work is profoundly moving…why? Because Eddie knows who he is; he is grounded in his whenua. His dance work Uku – Behind the Canvas explores the power of vulnerability and strength within struggle and the healing and cleansing powers of uku (of clay) to reground ourselves to return to our origins Papatūānuku.

Our second choreographer Rodney Bell is a renowned dancer and performer of Ngāti Maniapoto. He is collaborating with the amazing Malia Johnston to choreograph a new work called Imprint. I’m excited about this work because it is a complete contrast to UKU which is stripped back and is all about the physicality of the body and raw clay. Whereas Imprint will explore our connection our whakapapa to the whenua through movement design, projection, and digital design. It will be a beautiful meditation on how texture, light, colour and movement from our natural environment is deeply embedded in our movement, in our memories and our connection to our planet.

Morning People: Warehouse Rave

Cult morning rave experience Morning People has been remixing mornings and showing the alarm clock who’s boss since 2016.

Forget your early morning workout at the gym, your cold-water morning plunge in the moana, and join me at the Tāwhiri Warehouse for a ‘Morning Rave’. Pump yourself up with coffee and fruit and start your day with a “big beat breakfast”.

With a reputation for rocking a party, your DJ for the morning is none other than national dance music powerhouse Dick ‘Magik’ Johnson. Musical director of the ever-popular Synthony, Johnson has shared lineups with mean DJs like Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx and Armand Van Helden.

#partyfirstworklater – get your hit of house with the legendary Dick ‘Magik’ Johnson before the day has even started!

Discover the full Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts programme here now.