The Arts

Someone asked me today what my views on the arts in the region are.

As someone who studied visual culture and design, and then taught at university on the social history of New Zealand through the arts – I have a reasonable appreciation of the central role artistic expression and material culture play in creating meaning, increasing our connection to one another and the environment and also positive social change.

Two profound experiences I have had in relation to art have stuck with me. The first was when I stood in front of William Hunt’s painting “The Light of the World” in St Paul’s Cathedral London – all the history, suffering and joy of the world seemed to rush into this picture at that very moment – it moved me to tears and I could barely stand there but neither could I move for some time. The other was recently as Miria, my five year old daughter, showed me her rendering of Papatuanuku and Ranginui being pushed apart by Tane Mahuta – the two parents were both crying – it was a simple but profound expression of true relationship and demonstrated to me the power of visual stories.

Te Tairawhiti has produced some of the greatest artists this country has every known – Raharui Rukupo, Pine & Hone Taiapa, Hine Ki Tawhiti, Ngoi Pewhairangi, Kiri Te Kanawa, Derek Lardelli and many many more. 

Recently efforts have been made to celebrate the creativity of the region – kapahaka festivals, Nga Manu Korero competitions, art in public places, concerts and many other initiatives provide platforms for allowing art to shape reality and vice versa.

I think we need to balance carefully the economic and cultural imperatives driving the production and consumption of art. We need to ensure our artists are supported and remain free enough to make great works for everyone to benefit from – this ensures art has a place of value in society. If we commercialise art production too much we run the risk of turning our culture into another commodity to be bought and sold by the highest bidder. Artists offer gifts to a community that provides a critical reflection back to the community – this role is essential and must be nurtured and protected.

I am also passionate about community arts and to some extent ‘de-expertising’ art-making. From 2002-2005 I supported the establishment of a commuity recording studio and record label in Kaiti, we also set-up a youth radio station, film production unit and creative space for people with mental health issues, children’s art workshops and the elderly. Since 1998 I have facilitated with children and young people, the design and production of community murals and mosaics at Wainui Rd, Hardy Lane, Waikirikiri Reserve, Alfred Cox Skate Park, Turanganui-a-Kiwa Activity Centre and Kaiti Memorial Park.

I have a cousin who married a Cambridge University computer sciences Professor. For their wedding, the Professor made by hand for my cousin, the most amazing wedding dress I have ever seen.

We are all artists – human beings are created to be creative.

Here are some prints and paintings I have made over the years:

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2 thoughts on “The Arts

  1. Good rave Darryl.

    I really appreciated the comments from the urban planners who about the city that invested in cultural creatives that brought smart money (and design) to the place. Gisborne has the potential to be the cultural capital of the South Pacific – but as the visiting town planners suggested – it takes inspired leadership to ensure the social, economic, creative and physical conditions exist to allow such things to happen.

    We still have a lot of empty buildings around the CBD and further afield that make awesome studios for musicians, painters, sculptors and weavers. Anyone who has visited Jess Jacobs space in the old Gisborne Club will know how fortunate she has been to have a generous benefactor that made that building available for a number of artists.

    I look forward to attending the launch of the Creative Tairawhiti online directory of artists next week and will be a keen to support the inclusive development of an Arts Strategy for the whole region.

    Samples of my design work are at: http://www.ahi.co.nz/design

    – Manu

  2. Thank you for answering my question about how you see the arts benefiting our community, and the part they play in our lives. You’re quite right to question whether commercialism sits well with art – that is something I ponder often, and still have difficulty reconciling. I’ve got a feeling that business and the arts have something to offer each other – but that it’s important to have the balance right. Is the balance right in Tairawhiti ? I don’t know. I believe we could provide a more supportive and nurturing environment for our artists – and I agree with you that we all are artists. So a more supportive and nurturing environment for creativity, ideas and diversity all round I guess.

    Part of that environment deals in dollars. A starving artists is a romantic ideal, and maybe suffering is the only way to produce true art, but my experience of trying to earn a living from my art is that the bills still need paying, and the kids need feeding, clothing etc. How many artists do we have in our community who can live off the proceeds of their art ?
    “Not many, if any”. Imagine if we had a thriving Arts community where artists were able to fully commit themselves to their craft and were rewarded for their contribution.

    I guess that’s my personal vision, and the vision that’s lead me to be closely involved in the redevelopment of Creative Tairawhiti as a community-based organisation. We’ve looked at Council’s Arts Policy – it didn’t take long. And part of our vision is to work with Council to develop and deliver on an Arts Strategy that will see “more people more active in the arts more often” – both as artists and as members of each others audience.

    I’m extremely proud to call myself a musician – it took many years for me to feel worthy of it. And I feel fortunate to be part of a musical community that crosses every other boundary. Guitarists get guitarists. Don’t know what those drummers are about tho ! ; ) The fact that someone completely different from me in so many ways is still my brother or sister in music – well that’s an opportunity to learn from each other, and that’s got to be a good thing.

    Good luck with your campaign Manu, and thanks for the chance to rant.

    Go the GDC Arts Strategy !!!!!

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