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25 Nov 2022

Whiria te Tāngata: Meet the Artists

Warm whakamihi to these faces as they – not begin – but continue their mahi enriching and embedding creative opportunity and possibility into the fabric of their community over the next 12 months with support from Creative Waikato and financial backing through Manatū Taonga’s (Ministry of Culture and Heritage) Te Urungi Innovation fund.

Celebrate, follow and tune into the vibration of our 10 creative enablers selected for the first multi-community artist-in-residency programme Whiria te Tāngata (Weave the People Together)

Image Benny Marama

Benny Marama (Kūki ‘Āirani) 

An award-winning playwright and actor based in Kirikiriroa Hamilton, actively working as one since 2012.

With Aiono, Marama co-founded theatre company TAHI TA’I TASI, a company committed to creating, supporting, and uplifting diverse creators and performers through theatre.

As well as writing, Benny also co-created the 2022 youth improv initiative Project Allsorts alongside fellow Kirikiriroa playwright and improv performer Conor Maxwell. Supported by the Creative Communities Scheme, the programme’s aim was to create a sense of community among youth improv performers which would increase participation in the annual Waikato Secondary Schools Competition.

Much of Benny’s creative career has been spent on collaborating and communicating with other local creatives. Through a shared love of the arts, this collaboration has brought forth incredible works and cultural experiences.

His hope is to use his own learned experiences to encourage our rangatahi to participate in their own creative experiences, in particular our Pasifika youth.

Emiko Sheehan 

Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato, Tūwharetoa, Raukawa, Ngāti whaoa-Ngāti Tahu, Japanese, is a multidisciplinary artist. Her work often explores ways to reconnect with whakapapa and whenua, breaking down colonial ideas of time and re-indigenising her everyday life to be in harmony with her art practice. 

She draws inspiration from her stargazing tupuna, and is grounded by her new found love as a māmā. From 70’s disco spoken word performance during yum cha dinner, to Japanese book binding, to harvesting harakeke from her marae to changing nappies, Emiko calls herself a con-artist, jack of all trades (master of none). 

Fay Purdie-Nicholls

Fay lives in Matarangi on the Coromandel Peninsula and works part-time at Coromandel Area School. She is passionate about enabling creativity in her community to improve well-being. Holding an New Zealand Diploma in Art and Creativity, she runs creative sessions for children and adults with a focus on capturing feelings and memories in art.

In her own art practice, Fay works intuitively and loves to explore different media such as paint, photography, sculpture and lino prints to feed into a theme. Her goal is not to master a medium, but to “explore many media to get my stories out in different ways, which is what I love to help other people do too”.  

Fay is absolutely humbled, excited and feels very fortunate to be chosen as one of 10 artists in Whiria Te Tāngata. To be supported with funding and time to nourish well-being in her community through creativity is the opportunity of a lifetime! She is really looking forward to seeing where the next 12 months lead.

Isaiah McIver 

He uri tēnei ō Ngā Puhi, Tainui, Raukawa, Ngāti Hamoa. Tihei wā mauri ora

Born and raised in Auckland’s North Shore Isaiah decided to finally pursue his passion in music at age 26. Now calling Kirikiriroa home he has spent the last five years studying music and working in the local music industry. From being a Sound Engineer, Composer and all round funny guy Isaiah has been able to promote the lifestyle of what it means to be an “Urban Maori”.

Stepping outside of his comfort zone and pushing boundaries Isaiah has recently been working towards a Te Reo Māori Hip Hop EP as a vehicle to push Tuakiritanga (Self-identity) and Māoritanga (Māori ways of being) towards urban Māori/Pasifika people.

In addition, he is a second language learner of Te Reo Māori and understands the importance of reconnecting with our tūpuna and whenua.

Margaret Feeney 

Margarets practice looks at the hijacking of the natural world and the human-built world by the modern market system. She sees Artificial Intelligence and climate change as by-products of the hijack and has developed three umbrella projects to explore them: It Started With a Kiss, Water Systems and, A Black Comedy in Pastels. 

Margaret uses an expanded methodology of drawing, studio work, writing, and Collective Invention workshops. Social engagement is a critical part of her arts practice and Outsider Art, art made by non-mainstream thinkers, is an area of special interest.

With an established exhibition record as an artist, Margaret has a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Art History, from Victoria University, Wellington, and a Master of Fine Art, RMIT, Melbourne, and has taught at Universities, Polytechnics, Prisons, Outsider Studios, and private art schools throughout Aotearoa.

Sasha McGaughran

Sasha is a passionate creative living in Raahui Pookeka (Huntly) Waikato. Having lived in Huntly her whole life with a five-year stint in Auckland, Sasha studied and worked in many creative roles.

Her education was strongly focused on TV and Film. Gaining a Diploma in applied Animation and a Diploma in Production Design and Sculpting. Through these years she was lucky enough to gain some amazing experiences within the TV / Film and Theatre industry, however her passion lies in all creative avenues.

Now that Sasha has returned to her hometown, she wants to share her knowledge and skills with the community. She currently does a range of art workshops for Creative Huntly: including coordinating a local Film Club and offering after-hour workshops teaching the community a variety of creative skills. She also had the opportunity to work on Huntly’s Art Strategy plan which is a community lead plan to help grow the arts and culture within our community over the next five years. There are many exciting creative times ahead and she is ready for it!

Ifat Vayner-Itzkovitch

A Puppeteer/Creator, Ifat has blended puppetry, dance, and physical theatre in surprising and delightful ways for the past 12 years.

She was born in Israel and moved to New Zealand three years ago, with her husband and two children.

After studying a B.A in Theatre and Literature in Tel-Aviv University (2006-2009), Ifat studied Puppetry at the ‘Israeli puppetry school’ (2010-2013, Holon) specialising in “Puppet-Therapy” for groups and individuals. She also studied design and performance and mastered many techniques.

Spending 9 years at the ‘Israeli Puppetry centre,’ Ifat developed educational programs and courses for various communities and age groups. In addition, she taught puppetry at a primary school and performed in different productions and throughout her career, Ifat has designed many puppets for shows and educational programs, including her own puppetry shows.

Here in New Zealand, she has performed at Whoa! Studios, and has been creating puppets for festivals and social cultural events and has been teaching puppetry through the “Creatives in Schools” programme in Primary schools.

Melanie Allison 

Melanie is a non-binary playwright based in Kirikiriroa. They have a Bachelor’s degree from The University of Waikato in Theatre Studies and English. They have been creating theatre since they were around thirteen years old, but have been involved in Kirikiriroa’s diverse theatre community since 2017, first as an actor, then as a playwright for the first time in 2020 with My Incredibly Important Life. 

Melanie has been nominated for Playmarket’s Playwrights B4 25 award three times since 2020, and has had three publications in Mayhem Journal. It is important to Melanie as an LGBTQIA+ playwright to engage queer youth in the development and production of their scripts.

Matt Sephton

Matt Sephton is a roaming sound engineer, music recordist and sound artist. 

He embraces an experimental, playful approach to making and experiencing music, combining both technical expertise and creative exploration. Whether in his freelance work as a touring sound mixer for festivals and bands, his bass heavy DJ sets full of wild energy, recording original music through his ‘pop up’ recording sessions, or collaborating with others on new electronic productions.

With fellow collaborators he runs regular pop-up recording sessions, with an aim to make the recording process accessible to as many people as possible, to record music in as honest and authentic a way possible and capturing the integrity and rawness of a live performance.

In his Coromandel studio he explores interesting sonic textures and tactile low bass music, following threads of ideas to reach an emotional and physical response.  Inspired by adventures in the ocean off the Coromandel coast, sci-fi film soundtracks, and late-night festival dancefloors. 

Matt has a love of adventure, nurturing community through festivals, events and shared experiences, and recording authentic creative expression through music and storytelling in a playful, experimental and collaborative way.

Oriwa Morgan Ward

Oriwa Morgan Ward holds a Bachelor in Māori Contemporary Art and a Diploma in Te Reo Māori.  Through her education Oriwa has obtained significant personal growth and appreciation for all things pertaining to Te Ao Māori.  Living abroad for 35 years of her life, she relocated back to Aotearoa in 2013, and has since immersed herself as a full time artist within a Māori construct from a Māori point of view.  With a vision to reclaim her cultural heritage, Oriwa continues the journey of building a platform within the arts to have a voice.

The feminine essence is a common theme in her work.  This is an exploration of her own Mana Wahine, and self-discovery as a Māori woman.  Oriwa’s connection to the Waikato is by Whakapapa as a descendant of the Tainui waka.

Ko Taupiri te Maunga

Ko Waikato te Awa

Ko Horahora te Marae

Ko Ngaati Pou te Hapū


All Images and Bios provided by artists