Get to know the Wellingtonians of Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts

19 January 2024

Let’s hear it for the locals - and boy do we have a few at the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts. It’s a showcase of home-grown talent and honorary Wellingtonians, from artists, performers and all-round contemporary art powerhouses who wave the flag for Te Whanganui-a-Tara. So, on this Wellington Anniversary Day let’s take a deep dive into some of the Wellingtonians of the Festival.

Hatupatu|Kurungaituki: A Forbidden Love, image by Stephen A'Court

Malia Johnston: BELLE – a performance of Air

With a career that’s taken Malia Johnston across Aotearoa, the choreographer and director now resides in Lower Hutt. Her latest work BELLE – a performance of Air comes from her company Movement of the Human and brings an all-female cast of aerialists combined with the magic of light by Rowan Pierce and live music by Eden Mulholland. Malia often speaks of discovering the whole aerial circus community when she originally moved to Wellington – we must be fans of the skies in this capital city!

Book your tickets for BELLE – a performance of Air at St James Theatre, Thu 14 – 17 Mar.

Dreamgirls Art Collective

Bringing the magic of Wellington to life are the Dreamgirls Art Collective. The creative mahi is a collaboration of Miriama Grace-Smith, Gina Kiel and Xoë Hall with a cameo from New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate Coco Solid

Born and based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Gina has shared her creativity and artwork across Aotearoa. You can find some of her pieces in Wellington, from a collaboration with Larissa Mcmillian in Civic Square, to a little Island Bay mural. While Xoë, who was born in Upper Hutt and grew up in Porirua, combines legends, idols and words in her murals and paintings. You can spot her works around town, from Pinot & Picasso in the CBD to a glitter mural of Hinemoana at the i-site info centre. Honorary Wellingtonian Miriama Grace-Smith is based in Wellington and has public art pieces across Aotearoa.

Visit Wellington Waterfront to step into their latest art installation, Taniwha Time Machine from the Dreamgirls Art Collective from Fri 16 Feb – Sun 10 Mar.

Lioness: Emily Perkins

It’s not just Emily Perkin’s latest novel Lioness that has some affiliation to the capital city, the author herself now calls Wellington home. An honorary Wellingtonian that brings the city to life in her writing, you can catch Emily in conversation with Kim Hill as she opens up about her fifth novel on Sat 24 Feb, The Embassy Grand.

Our Own Little Mess: A Slightly Isolated Dog

It’s not called the creative city for any old reason – home to the theatre production company A Slightly Isolated Dog, Wellington is a hotbed for groundbreaking contemporary arts. The stage is set for the world-premiere of their latest work Our Own Little Mess. Taking inspiration from the eclectic filmmakers the Daniels (Everything, Everywhere, All at Once) the show is an immersive genre-bending audio adventure that blends mystery, comedy and thriller through music, podcasts, and narration.

Catch Our Own Little Mess at the Circa Theatre, Thu 22 – Sun 25 Feb.

Taraura- Bird Like Men

There’s a whole lot of Te Whanganui-a-Tara amongst Tararua – Bird Like Men’s artists. Ruby Solly (vocals/taonga pūoro/cello) and Alistair Fraser (taonga pūoro) both call Wellington their home while Phil Boniface (double bass) is an alumnus of Massey University.

Described by Lead Vocalist Ariana Tikao as ‘an exploration of whakapapa and connections through music’ the performance draws inspiration from Māori rock art depictions of bird people at the Maerewhenua site in Otago. Tararua – Bird Like Men comes to Māoriland Hub, Ōtaki on Friday 1 March.

Tararua – Bird Like Men is a Choose Your Price | Kōwhiria Tō Utu show.

Gravity & Grace by Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken

Now you can't get more 'Wellington' than this award-winning duo. Based in the Capital and working together since 2017, Eleanor and Karin (EKBM) have made quite a name for themselves in the theatre-world. In 2022 the duo became the first creative partnership to be awarded the Bruce Mason Playwrighting Award. Their collaboration results in socially minded, formally innovation contemporary pieces of theatre.

Their latest work, Gravity & Grace is based on a thrilling autobiographical fiction by acclaimed feminist writer Chris Kraus. It's a daring, fiercely funny and captivating production and will have its world premiere this Festival.

See Gravity & Grace at Circa Theatre from Thu 7 - Sun 10 Mar.

Hatupatu | Kurungaituki: A Forbidden Love: Taki Rua Productions

Based in Welly, Taki Rua Productions get the stage and the skies sets for Hatupatu | Kurungaituki: A Forbidden Love. The national, Kaupapa Māori performing arts organisation will bring the show to the new pop-up venue Tāwhiri Warehouse. Standing in the crowd you’ll be looking up and around as aerialists navigate their way through the space. It’s a love story of epic proportions.

See Hatupatu | Kurungaituki: A Forbidden Love from 20 – 24 Feb.

Sam Duckor-Jones: WRITERS events

Born and bred in Welly, Sam knows a thing or two about the capital. The sculptor, poet, writer and artist is a creative powerhouse with a portfolio of award-winning poetry, sculptures and art exhibitions. Sam will lead the workshop Writing The Rainbow as part of the WRITERS event at the Festival. Aimed at young LGBTQI+ writers and readers, participants will explore the beginnings of putting their stories on the page.

Sam Duckor-Jones features across multiple WRITERS events that take place at The Embassy Theatre from Fri 23 – Sun 25 Feb.