by Insiders Dunedin

In the past couple of years, Otepoti Dunedin's Puaka Matariki Festival has grown into being a crucial chapter in the local cultural calendar. What makes our 'Maori New Year' celebrations so special, and I think more enduring, is the way it balances a focus on whanau and community with a growing programme of artistic excellence. Many of the events are community get togethers, making lanterns, sharing kai and catching up for a yarn. Stronger communities make us more resilient as a City, which is why Puaka Matariki fostering that connectivity is so fantastic. There are great community art projects, too. The karaoke institution Marae Idol has been running for over a decade now. I Am Here; Here I Am riffs on the Colin McCahon classic, shining a light on artists with disabilities and those more marginalised by society. 


I Am Here; Here I Am at the Margaret Freeman Gallery from now until July 5. 


Okareka Dance Company's K'Rd Strip: A Place To Stand (Turangawaewae) plays at The Regent Theatre on June 28th & 29th. 

These last two examples weave the two strands of community and art together, giving it the strength I mentioned earlier. This year's programme also brings to the stage a great roster of performing arts talent. Star dancer and choreographer Taiaroa Royal arrives as part of Okareka Dance Company, presenting their work K'Rd StripKarangahape Road has deep roots in the national psyche, it is a counter-cultural icon, and it will be interesting to see how Okareka's historical exposition translates at the other end of the country. Contemporary dance is augmented by elements of pole dancing, drag queens, haka and dramatic scenes, drawing comparisons between the function of K'Rd in the gay community, nationally and internationally, and the 19th Century Maori community. 

Dunedin pop composer Dudley Benson doesn't perform very often, so it is always an occasion to be cherished when he does. On the back of his recent sound installation Tui, Tui, Tuia at the Auckland Art Gallery, Mr Benson presents two programmes for Puaka Matariki. Programme the first, Nga Mihiz, is a triptych of performance pieces by himself (with his immediate whanau) dance artist Cat Ruka & Piupiu-Maya Turei. Programme the second features rearrangements of his album Forest (itself rearrangements of waiata by the late Hirini Melbourne) especially for the festival. The album is all a capella (only uses the voice), and the percussion on it was provided by Wellington beat box institution King Homeboy. For the tour supporting the album, Dudley recruited Hopey One, a Brisbane based beatboxer, and one of the top three wahine beatboxers in the world. You can hear her work on the Live Series: Volume One. Dudley Benson & Hopey One Live are supported by the electro sprawl of Murderbike and the dreamy pop of Trick Mammoth. 

Dudley Benson & Hopey One Live, with Murderbike & Trick Mammoth. Queens, Saturday June 29. 

Puaka Matariki 2013 is a sprawling programme of great events that keeps community at its core. Running from now until July 7th, there's no excuse to not get out and embrace it. Given the way it has raised the bar these past few years, I'm already excited about what's in store for 2014!

Post Submitted by Aaron Hawkins


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