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4 May 2023

Whiria te Tāngata: Meet the Mentors

Warm whakamihi to these faces as they become part of the Whiria te Tāngata story. Paired with one of our 10 artists-in-residence to provide wrap around support over the coming months, they walk side by side to awhi the incredible mahi of these artists.

With support from Creative Waikato and financial backing through Manatū Taonga’s (Ministry of Culture and Heritage) Te Urungi Innovation fund, follow and tune in to the next phase of the first multi-community artist-in-residency programme Whiria te Tāngata (Weave the People Together)

Pos Mavaega (Pacific Underground) mentoring Benny Marama 

Pos Mavaega is a Christchurch-born and bred, original member (since 1993) of the performing arts collective Pacific Underground (PU) as Musical Director, producer and guitarist. Together with Tanya Muagututi’a in 1999, they continued PU’s mission of nurturing new Pasifika talent and stories, at the same time diversifying into festivals and event production.

They toured Pos’s original show Island Summer throughout Aotearoa and the Pacific, creating an array of Pasifika roots music collaborations. He has recently crewed on large festival sites and concert stages, has played his guitar for many artists from Che Fu to Fat Freddy’s Drop and has travelled to WOMEX in Europe to promote Pasifika Aotearoa music. For PU’s 25th anniversary Pos’s unforgettable show Meet Me at The Doghouse reunited PU’s music family Ladi6, Sheelahroc, Dallas Tamaira, Scribe, Tribalincs, Mara TK, ‘Koile, Steve Apirana and Joe Tamaira at the 2019 Christchurch Arts Festival. In 2022, Pos was the Music Director and Sound Designer for PU and Auckland Theatre’s epic revival season of Dawn Raids written by Oscar Knightley.

Pos accepted PU’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pacific Music Awards in 2016, and was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit at the 2021 Queens Birthday honours.

Regan Balzer mentoring Emiko Sheehan

Regan’s works are motivated by narratives of the land, people and culture. Since attaining a Masters in Māori Visual Arts from Massey University (2011), Regan has continued an expansive career in the arts, developing a colourfully expressive style of painting through a dedicated commitment to her art practice. Regan has exhibited extensively (in group and solo shows) throughout New Zealand as well as internationally (including Italy, America, Australia & Tahiti).

Regan’s recent works explore and push the parameters of paint in different mediums, including commissions, digital work, large scale works and performance practice.

Leafa Wilson mentoring Fay Purdie-Nicholls

Waikato-born and raised Samoan (villages: Siumu/ Vaimoso – Samoa)

Leafa has been either making art, curating art or writing about art for over 40 years. As a multimedia performance-based artist, her artistic practice can shift from exhibition to performance in situ.

From 2004 – 2021 Leafa was the curator of art at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato and has extensive knowledge of contemporary and historic art from multiple traditions. During this time, her work at the museum was fortunate to work within the rohe of the Kiingitanga, and Leafa has had the privilege of being privy to Tainui-tanga tikanga and waiata. In her independent curatorial work, Leafa has always sought ways to normalise the curation of Maaori art in contemporary art exhibitions alongside numerous famous New Zealand European artists. Democratising art for all has been a long-standing goal of hers.

Leafa has been a sole judge or co-judge for many art awards including The Molly Morpeth Canaday Award (2023), Taranaki National Art Award (2020, 2022), The National Youth Art Award (2015)

As an independent curator, Leafa has curated numerous exhibitions and art happenings including OLGA art space which is a moveable feast. She co-curated the 2nd Morni Hills International Performance Art Biennale in Chandigarh and Haryana, India (2018). She has exhibited widely, at various art spaces in group shows or collaborations: the now defunct Archill Gallery, Tamaki Makaurau, The Physics Room – Otautahi, St Paul ST Gallery – Tamaki Makaurau, Gus Fisher Gallery – Tamaki Makaurau, Michael Lett – Tamaki Makaurau. Her work is represented in numerous private and public collections including The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, The Wallace Collection, and the Karalus Family Collection.

Horomona Horo mentoring Isaiah McIver 

Composer, musical artist, practitioner and cross genre collaborator, Horomona Horo has fused the traditional instruments of the Maori, taonga puoro, within a diverse range of cultural, musical and educational forms.

Mentored by tohunga (experts) of taonga puoro, Dr. Hirini Melbourne and Richard Nunns. Horo is one of the international Māori faces of Taonga Puoro.
Horomona has developed his mastery and skill of not only the performance practice of taonga puoro, but, has continued the vision of the renaissance of the traditional Māori musical instruments by his mentors and has extended his knowledge and skills across diverse music and art genres.

“Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari taku toa i te toa takitini”
“My strength is not strength as an individual, but, is the strength of many”.

Dr. Carole Shepheard mentoring Margaret Feeney 

Dr. Carole Shepheard is a former Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland and is an ONZM holder for her contribution to the visual arts. Carole’s Doctorate of Fine Arts investigated the role of the artist in museum collections and she has written articles for many catalogues and art publications both here and in Australia. While at the Elam School of Fine Arts she undertook several organisational roles as well as supervising Masters and Doctoral students. She is the printmaking judge for the 2023 NZPPA and for the Print Council of Aotearoa New Zealand ‘Celebration 2023’ exhibition to be held at Aratoi.

Carole moved to Kāwhia in 2006 where she set up Te Puti Art Studio, an open access studio. Her interest has always been to support individuals and communities who find themselves outside the mainstream and to encourage them to make strong, authentic art that speaks of themselves an their connections. As a multimedia artist she has had many solo and group shows both nationally and internationally. She is particularly well known for her early feminist works in the 1980s. Her mahi moves across several creative fields (painting, sculpture, installation, print) however, in 2020 in response to Covid isolation and lock down periods she began working in ceramics.

Best known for her printmaking, a recent twenty year survey exhibition was held in the Hastings City Art Gallery/Te Whare Toi o Heretaunga (2021) followed by Northart, Auckland (2022). Her work is held in national and international collections.

Rachel Kiddie-McClure mentoring Sasha McGaughran

Rachel Kiddie McClure is a New Zealand-based artist whose work embraces autobiographical themes of identity, feminism, domestic worlds, nostalgia and storytelling. She has a diverse interest in art and craft, working in multiple disciplines such as drawing, illustration, painting, sculpture, quilt-making, cross-stitch, embroidery and crochet.

Her work sits comfortably within a kitsch aesthetic, utilising pattern, bold colour, glitter, craft, textiles, decorative embellishments and the ready-made. Combinations of colour, pattern, text and symbolism are used to explore humour in her everyday life as a mum and as a woman.

Humour is an important and underlying theme in her work, with the quote “it’s feminism with a frown turned upside-down” (Harford, 2013) a guiding sentiment in Kiddie-McClures’ practice. Fragments of sadness, rage and frustration also linger in the background which help to bring about contemporary critique and a sense of familiarity to the audience.

Chris Lam Sam mentoring Ifat Vayner-Itzkovitch

Chris Lam Sam is one of New Zealand’s top musical entertainers for children and families. Based in Wellington, Chris is a trained composer and primary school teacher who tours and presents children’s concerts for organisations like the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and the New Zealand String Quartet.

Initially inspired by the success of Australia’s children’s group The Wiggles in 2003, Chris and his peers formed The Funky Monkeys, their own musical supergroup for kids while living in the Waikato. Since then, Chris has won NZ On Air’s award for Best Children’s Music Video twice, and was a finalist for Te Kaipuoro Waiata Tamariki Toa / Best Children’s Music Artist in 2021 at the Aotearoa NZ Music Awards for his debut solo album Silly Funny Songs For Kids.

Chris had his first co-written children’s picture book, Inspector Brunswick: Case of the Missing Eyebrow published with London’s TATE Museum in 2017, and enjoys speaking in primary schools as part of Te Pou Muramura / Read NZ’s Authors in Schools programme.

Elyssia Wilson-Heti mentoring Melanie Allison

Elyssia Wilson-Heti is an interdisciplinary artist, activist and member of FAFSWAG. She is of mixed Niuean and European heritage. Elyssia is a producer for the FAFSWAG Arts Collective, having produced live performance, community events, arts panels and activations over the past decade.

Formally, she trained as a performer for stage and film at Best Training and Unitec. Elyssia has featured in works for Auckland Fringe festival, Auckland Pride, Sydney Biennale, FAT FEB 2020 and 2021, Auckland Arts Festival and Documenta 15.

Her arts / community practice is collaborative and intersectional. In 2019, Elyssia was selected for the Basement Theatre development programme – ‘The Visions Project’.  She directed, wrote for and performed in the original performance work, Reclamation. She was chosen as the 2020 Producer Resident at Basement Theatre. She has since co-produced along side designer of Infamy Apparel, a grass roots radical fat positive FAT FEB festival at Vunilagi Vou Gallery, The Legacy Ball for the Auckland Arts Festival with the pioneering Ballroom houses of Aotearoa, co-produced the inaugural The Nest Street Style Solo Dance Festival with Jahra Wasasala and Ooshcon Masseurs.

She has also co-produced MATALA audio essays with Tanu Gago, and created by Tapuaki Helu and Hōhua Ropate Kurene. She was previously appointed as the first creative director for the Auckland Pride Festival and currently holds the position of creative catalyst at Te Taumata Toi-a-Iwi in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.

Paddy Free mentoring Matt Sephton

Paddy Free is one of New Zealand’s best-known electronic musicians. A multi-platinum selling producer and New Zealand Music Award-winning audio engineer, for over 20 years he has recorded and performed around the world as one half of Pitch Black and as a solo artist. Paddy has written music for film, theatre, dance, television and multimedia art as well as acting as producer and engineer for many world renowned New Zealand artists including Crowded House, Killing Joke, Salmonella Dub, Moana and the Tribe, Kora, The Adults and the New Zealand Symphony and Auckland Philharmonic Orchestras – to name just a few.

As a composer for contemporary dance, Paddy has worked with Atamira Dance Company, Mau and Black Grace, and has composed several soundtracks for installation works by multimedia artist Rachael Rakena. Pitch Black compositions have featured in many international films and TV programs including Whale Rider, CSI:Miami and True Blood.

Paddy has a long history of collaboration with Māori musicians and taonga puoro players such as Moana Maniapoto, Dr. Richard Nunns, Horomona Horo, Oceania and Ngā Tae. Through his involvement with these artists he is furthering the exploration of kaupapa Māori, te reo Māori and taonga puoro with electronica and dub production.

Te Kawaunui Trust mentoring Oriwa Morgan Ward

Ata Te Kanawa

Ata has a robust background in communications, having independently published and edited a glossy lifestyle indigenous magazine, Tu Mai for 13 years, as well as holding a number of communications roles for different entities.

In 2009, as the co-founder of Miromoda, Ata took on event management as the artistic director and was responsible for overall communications and marketing, which she maintains in 2023. Miromoda is a big ticket show at New Zealand Fashion Week which is captured on all media channels, nationally and internationally.

Since 2018, Ata has been a trustee of Ronald McDonald House Charity NZ, a global charity that operates in 62 countries with more than 800 house. More recently, Ata has maintained her Māori Engagement and Communication role since 2018, at MBIE – the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. In 2022, Ata was seconded from the Māori Economic Development unit to the Major Events, FIFA WWC 23 Special Projects Team.

Ata has chaired the whanau trust – Te Kawaunui, since 2019 and credits it with being one of the most soul enhancing experiences she’s ever had.

Ria Davis

Ria Davis has been tutoring the process for extracting, preparing, and weaving with Muka since 2002. Promoted by the Adult Community Education format, as tutor, and later becoming the A.C.E. Co-ordinator at Edgecumbe College.
Recipients of korowai from the A.C.E. programmes are as follows:

Edgecumbe Colledge= 1
Local Marae= 4

Personal Korowai projects:
Community = 1
Church =1
Whanau =10

Ria has been very fortunate to be part of a this roopu Ngā Muka Rerehau, introducing her to procedures and principles in creating Whariki Whakairo, for Marae around the motu.

Photograph taken by Lance Chapman

Dr. Kahutoi Te Kanawa

ICATE, Cert Ed Tech, Cert TARM, DipTARM, PGDip FA, MA&D(hons), PhD. University of Waikato.

Kahutoi Te Kanawa, is currently the Pou Ārahi/curator Māori at Auckland Museum. She holds a PhD, Masters of Art and Design and Postgraduate Diploma of Fine Arts. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, published articles and is a researcher.

She has been a national programme leader, a senior lecturer, project manager and is a kairaranga.


All Images and Bios provided by artists