Inside The Whau Arts Festival

The netherspace between the CBD and the freewheeling West, Auckland's Whau region has been crying out for something to combine its diverse population of creatives for years now. With the Whau Arts Festival, they might finally have it. The organising collective, Whau The People share some of the highlights from the week ahead.


New Zealand used to have some tremendous community arts festivals in the halcyon ‘70s days of adequate funding and community work schemes: “serious” artists wrote music, designed costumes, and put together performances that happened in places otherwise dedicated to everyday life. Although a community arts festival is a slightly more difficult prospect these days, a growing group of local artists in the centre-west of Auckland were keen to make work in their own neighbourhood, and to make work with and for their neighbours. Hence the Whau Arts Festival was born.

The Whau is one of the few “new” local board areas to come out of the Auckland supercity amalgamation; not quite West Auckland, and not quite central, it’s made up of an eclectic mix of suburbs that tend to get referred to in the euphemisms of real estate agents as places with “hidden treasures”, or with “great transport links” - suburbs like New Lynn, Green Bay, Kelston, Rosebank. The Whau suburb of Avondale exemplifies the area's contrast, diversity and messiness. From the green-lipped river that snakes through the urbanscape, the $2 shop mecca that makes up the town centre on the ruins of old brickyards, tanneries and mills, the Sunday markets at the run-down racecourse and the last Wurlitzer standing at the local cinema, the suburb is full of creative inspiration for anyone in need of it.

Going under the collective moniker "Whau The People", the festival has been pulled together by five practitioners out of a combo of passion, volunteer grit, innovation and commitment. This week, we invited the organisers to come up with some of their top picks for the festival.

Sam Morrison, Whau Arts Festival Coordinator

The Plantation
@ 1915 Great North Road, Avondale
16-19 October

In the heart of Avondale lies a huge, vacant concrete lot that's been neglected for years. This space, known as "the Three Guys site" after the supermarket that once stood there, a is a contentious talking point in the area - a stark symbol of the general neglect that has snuck into the main strip's built environment over time. Ever since I moved to Avondale 8 years ago, I’ve always dreamed of doing something in this space - its large concrete emptiness conjures up endless possibilities! - but like many other local artists I’ve been busy doing projects elsewhere. Finally, we're reclaiming and activating this space, renaming it the Plantation.

For Whau the People, the neglected nature of The Plantation site informs an innovative proposition for how community spaces can be activated through the collective drive and vision of local artists. Over the course of four days (16-19 October) the site - which will be the festival headquarters - is going to become a creative, transitional space - transformed through a changing mix of performance, sculpture, installation, music, live graph art, painting, architecture and more. The site will continue to evolve and change throughout the four days of the festival, so is definitely worth visiting more than once.


Will Crummer & the Rarotongans
@ The Plantation
1915 Great North Road, Avondale
5pm, Sat 18 October

The first time I heard Will Crummer was by chance whilst visiting Te Papa in Wellington with my kids. Once the music started I couldn’t leave, and that was just the sound check. After a rushed makeshift dinner in the boot of the car, I insisted we shoot back for the full set. Fast forward to 2014 - whilst discussing the festival with a former student, I find out that he grew up next to the Crummer family in Avondale, only a few streets from where I live. After convincing Ahu to pass on my details we were able to get in touch and get Will involved. We are incredibly excited to have Will Crummer in this festival, showcasing this amazing local talent within the community he has lived for many years.

OFFSTAGE 6: Shipping Container Exhibition
Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust (supported by ARTSPACE)
@ The Plantation
1915 Great North Road, Avondale
6pm Friday 17 October

Offstage 6 is a one-night only showcase of experimental video works and performances by a number of local Pacific artists. The exhibition will feature four videos and three performances by the artists who have each responded to the unique exhibition space — two 12 metre long shipping containers temporarily located on The Plantation in Avondale — and the notion of movement or temporary occupation that the containers imply. In particular, each video work considers a different type of journey, from a taxi ride around a Pacific Island to recordings made while living nomadically in Sydney. This will be the first time that these works have ever been exhibited.

The artists featured in the exhibition include Elisabeth Alani, Lucy 'Aukafolau, Lana Lopesi, Talia Smith, Natasha Matila-Smith, Salome Tanuvasa, Olga Krause and Faith Saufo'i Wilson. Being able to provide this rare opportunity to host a Pacific arts exhibition in Avondale (which boasts a large Pacific population) is a significant highlight for the festival organisers.


Guided Art Walks
Meet @ The Plantation
1915 Great North Road, Avondale
10am & 1pm Friday 17 October
10.30am Sunday 19 October

One of the significant features of the Whau Arts Festival is that it has provided an opportunity for local artists to creatively activate different spaces throughout the Avondale town centre, including a number of empty shops (of which there are many). The guided art walks will take visitors to the festival on a creative journey navigating two blocks of shops and will encompass an eclectic range of settings, including an installation in a shoe shop, a fish 'n chip shop turned exhibition space, prints in shop windows and the establishment of a temporal gallery. One of the highlights of this show will be a beautiful photography exhibition of locally captured images from photographer and long-time Avondale resident Max White.

For those who are unable to make the guided walks, there is an opportunity to take a self-guided walkthrough with a downloadable map which will be available via the website before 16 October.

Bronwyn Bent, Theatre Maker and Collective Member


48 Rosebank Road, Avondale
7pm Sunday 19 October
Gold-coin koha / donation

I saw Dianna Fuemana’s Birds at Mangere Arts Centre two weeks before I moved to my new home in Avondale. It’s full of smart-arse Avondale teenagers sassing everyone in sight and not going to school, and the knowing recognition of this from some in the audience would have been a warning signal to someone a bit more sensible

Many people have an ambivalent relationship with the place they were teenagers in, where a small geographic area holds sites of triumphs and humiliation right on top of each other. Fuemana understands that what might look just another slightly unprepossessing suburban park can be a proving ground, a memorial, and the hallowed site of a first kiss. Birds is a crash course on these sites in Avondale: Riversdale Reserve, the community centre, the Hollywood, Rosebank Road. There’s a very personal geography happening in this piece, and it’s this very strong sense of place that means we couldn’t have found a more ideal piece of theatre for this first festival.

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