Written by Leafa Wilson
Project Lead/aka Aunty Leafa
As the official Project Lead of the Whiria Te Tāngata pilot, I seem to have been bestowed with the epithet of ‘Aunty’ to some of the artists selected to be part of the pilot. What this suggests is that we became more than a group of people linked by contracts: creativity and a shared vision of creative concern wove us together as creative whānau. I accept the materteral (feminine version of avuncular, which just means to be aunt or uncle-like) because it describes the relationship quite accurately.
The ten ‘nieces and nephews’
Emiko Sheehan, Ihaia MacIver, Margaret Feeney, Matt Sephton, Oriwa Morgan Ward, Ifat Vayner-Itzkovitch, Sasha McGaughran, Fay Purdie-Nicholls, Melanie Allison, and Benny Marama each gave so much of themselves to communities throughout the Waikato region. While their programme was outward reaching to their respective communities; the personal and professional growth of each of them became visible as they presented their highlights and challenges to a room full of mentors and industry experts at their final waananga for the pilot. Throughout the year, I have watched them each go from testing out a programme they designed, with trepidation, to decisive, skilled communicators with confidence in their ability to administer their knowledge to the people.
Not only have they tested their ideas, but they now have the capability of communicating with people they may not ordinarily meet, they can organise with industry peers and experts, and they have become marketing and communications managers for their community, learning to network and understand who their audiences might be. They can locate suitable meeting spaces and have become seasoned hosts with manaaki superpowers. They have had to learn and hone every single skill required to ‘run things’ well for their own artistic offering. Not because the boss says, but because they are ‘the bosses’ now. This is not something that many people get paid to learn, it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who will pay you to learn how to get good and sort out what the community needs and how to implement successful projects.
They understand now that the most effective way to reach the world is by creating a community of practice, knitting people together through whakawhānaungatanga, thereby creating new safe spaces that reinforce that the arts, more than ever, provide much-needed wellbeing and wrap-around care to ngā tangata katoa.