Kōanga Festival Adopts Hybrid Model In Response To Lockdown

Kōanga Festival

Te Pou Theatre are delighted to confirm that their annual Kōanga Festival will go ahead in 2021, adopting a hybrid model to encompass both digital offerings and in-person events in response to Tāmaki Makaurau’s changing alert level status. A celebration of Māori storytelling, centered on their emerging playwright programme, Te Pou have extended the planned dates for this year’s festival, now running from September 23 – October 9.

Following the success of last year’s digital Kōanga Festival, Te Pou are committed to continuing their support of developing stories and storytellers in both digital and live spaces. The 2021 Kōanga programme will now offer digital access, allowing whānau to engage in storytelling in their homes, as well as in person events if the alert level status allows community gatherings to happen safely.

Kōanga FestivalUnfolding across two consecutive weekends, the Whakarongo Mai play readings offer the first chance for the public to hear brand-new works from the exciting emerging playwrights being fostered under the Kōanga umbrella.

With all readings commencing at 7pm, the public will be able to join the koha readings via a digital stream by registering for the live link on the Te Pou Theatre website. The first weekend, Friday 1 and Saturday 2 October, will be new kaupapa Māori plays for tamariki: Hoki Wairua Mai by Baylee Watene-Kay and Atarangi: Morning Sky by Tom Knowles. Friday 8 and Saturday 9 October will feature new works from wāhine Māori playwrights: The Kōkako by Te Aorewa Areta & Pīrairaka, Tīrairaka by Colleen Maria Lenihan and Ava Williams. More details on the works and writers are below.

Originally planned as a one-night-only performance of a work in progress, Ngā Tohu o Te Taiao has been reframed and is now being commissioned as a digital arts experience that can still engage audiences with matauranga Māori. A ticketed experience, the public will be able to join via a digital stream on the Te Pou Theatre website.

Audiences will also get the opportunity to see Kūpapa by Nicola Kāwana as a visual and audio experience that was created during the premiere season of the play earlier this year, accessed through Te Pou Theatre’s website. Unfortunately, the 2021 Whānau Day scheduled for September 25th has been cancelled, due to the need to be at Alert Level 1. In its place, Te Pou are inviting whānau to learn the stories of the whenua while walking around Te Pou with a new partnership with Sport Waitakere and Kawerau-ā-Maki Active Whakapapa. Further details about these three offerings are to come.

Named for the Te Reo word for Spring, Kōanga gathers the community together for the season that is traditionally a time to combine efforts to plant for the next harvest. In the same spirit, the role of Kōanga Festival is to develop a fertile Auckland Māori Theatre creative economy outside of the busy Matariki season, focused on developing new creative talent and work.

Now into its seventh iteration, Kōanga is celebrated annually at Te Pou, which was established in 2015 as a response to the Māori theatre sector’s desire to have a home for their work, offering a place for artists to develop and present their work under a tikanga Māori led arts management kaupapa. Te Pou took up permanent residency at Corban Estate Arts Centre in 2019, and are currently in the process of building a purpose-built venue for their mahi.

 Whakarongo Mai Playwrights’ Readings

The landmark feature of the Festival is the first public readings of new works from emerging playwrights. Connecting writers with talented Māori directors, dramaturgs, and actors, the programme supports the development of new ideas from conception to the scripting stage, and presents them to the public for the first time as part of Kōanga.

The playwrights for the 2021 programme are:

  • Te Aorewa Areta (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui), a storyteller and journalist currently based at RNZ in Tāmaki Makaurau, presents her debut work as a playwright. The Kōkakotells the story of the mysterious, elegant, and intelligent Meri, a Māori woman who steps to the front of New Zealand’s suffrage movement, fighting for a cause that represents all women.
  • Originally from Blenheim, Tom Knowles(Rongowhakaata) is a performer, writer and producer, and a graduate of Toi Whakaari: The New Zealand Drama School. Alongside his many performance credits including Live Live Cinema’s Little Shop of Horrors, the Modern Māori Quartet, and The National Theatre of London’s production of The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, Tom’s last work as a writer was the multi-award winning rock opera, Allergic to Love: Curse of the 80’s, which toured to America, Mexico and throughout New Zealand.

For Kōanga, he presents Atarangi: Morning Sky, an Aotearoa Reggae-Roots musical that explores the Māori myth of creation, Ranginui and Papatūānuku, through the eyes of a teenager in 2021.

  • Author and photographer Colleen Maria Lenihan(Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) and Te Ao Māori storyteller Ava Williams (Ngāpuhi, Tainui) combine their talents in Pīrairaka, Tīrairaka – a touching tale of two feisty kuia determined to bring their two young wāhine mokopuna to their whenua and whānau.
  • Actor and kaihaka Baylee Watene-Kay(Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Hine), who entered the arts industry in 2018 through Creative New Zealand’s Toi Māori Arts Internship program, offers her first work as a writer. Inspired by the legend of twin messengers Waiata and Hāparangi who belong to Māui’s waka wairua, Hoki Wairua Mai tells the story of the most celebrated achievement in Hawaiki. The two brothers, one deaf and the other blind, are in a race against time to deliver Koropā, the loneliest man in Hawaiki, to the birth of his 100th grandchild.

Kōanga Festival 2021:

Thursday 23 September – Saturday 9 October
Te Pou Theatre – Auckland’s Māori Home of Theatre
Digital offerings available through tepoutheatre.nz

Ngā Tohu o te Taiao – Kōanga
Thursday 23 September, Time TBC. Ticketed digital event, details to come.

Connecting to the maramataka through pūrakau, pūoro and toi onepū,  this first development evening brings together mātauranga Māori with Rikki Soloman, live sand art from Marcus Winter and taonga puoro from Jerome Puoro

Play Readings
Whakarongo Mai
1 – 2 & 8 – 9 October, all sessions 7-8pm.
Koha digital event, registration & access via Te Pou Theatre website.

Friday 1 October 2021, 7pm – Hoki Wairua Mai
Saturday 2 October 2021, 7pm – Ataarangi 
Friday 8 October 2021, 7pm – Pīwaiwaka / Tīrairaka
Saturday 9 October 2021, 7pm – The Kōkako

More details to come regarding Kūpapa and Active Whakapapa.
The WHĀNAU DAY, originally scheduled for Saturday 25 September, has been cancelled.