Community Wellness Championed by Local Festival
In association with Changing Minds
Structured to engage different pockets of the community in specifically tailored ways, for its fifth year Atawhai will support five different programmes throughout September and October across the Auckland region, strategically timed with Mental Health Awareness Week from September 23-29.
With an emphasis on promoting positive mental health and developing wellbeing and hauora in Aotearoa, cultural change agent Taurima Vibes have further developed their celebrated arts intervention and multi-disciplinary festival, ATAWHAI. Led by Māori director and facilitator Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho, Atawhai provides artists, organisations, and communities avenues to explore difficult conversations around mental health, using the arts as a conduit for education and unity. “The intention of work in this space is to achieve uplifting outcomes, celebration and positive movement forward”. says Borni.
On Saturday 21 September, the Takatāpui focused initiatives that Taurima Vibes established in 2018 will come under the Atawhai umbrella for the first time, hosted by and developed with support from Auckland Theatre Company. Ahurei Atawhai Takatāpui is a one-day event that aims to address the ‘minority within a minority’ mentality that exists for Māori, Pasifika and people of diverse ethnicities within LGBTQI+ spaces. A celebratory day with kai, korero, and waiata,Ahurei Atawhai Takatāpui provides a space for intergenerational connectivity for Takatāpui in a Tuakana/Teina framework. The day will feature workshops and panel discussions from Takatāpui leaders, influencers, and artists, including Gee Pikinga, Brady Peeti, Jacob Tamata andArdon England who will share their experiences and help educate with the wider community.
The 2019 programme also sees an expansion of another of Taurima Vibes staple initiative – theAtawhai Writers Network, running from September 16 – November 2. A foundation event of the festival, the network supports writers to explore their own lived experiences of mental distress and trauma in their preferred performance art style. Six writers developing five works have been engaged this year to tell their authentic stories with a week-long supported workshop, that includes peer support, mentorship and help with production aspects of their work. This year, the works in development are: Go Home Curry Muncha by Aiwa Pooamorn and Gemishka Chetty;Identity by Ardon England; Chrome Dome and Schizo by Daniel Goodwin; Pick Your Poison by Zach Robinson; and Crazy Grief by Tatiana Hotere. Recognising the need to ensure safety for artists who present challenging work about their own identities, Basement Theatre andAuckland Theatre Company have come on board in collaboration for the five-week programme to develop these new pieces of theatre, dance, and spoken word performance, with a 2 night workshop presentation being held at the Basement Theatre on the 1st and 2nd of November.
Picking up on recent research that has demonstrated the economic insecurity experienced by dancers and the negative impacts on their mental health, Atawhai are connecting with the dance community in collaboration with Tempo Dance Festival. On Thursday 10 October, WHĀ- Sunrise Hauora Conversations will be a workshop led by Dr Tia Reihana, offering insight into how dancers might embed a practice of holistic wellness into their lives and work. The workshop hosted by Auckland Live will explore the four walls of wellness proposed by Te Whare Tapa Whā, a Māori health model that suggests that our overall health is reliant on Tinana (physical health), Wairua (spiritual health), Hine Ngaro (mental health) and Whānau (Relational Health).
In a new venture, Atawhai is connecting with the community of Northcote with Changing the Narrative- A Celebration of Community Wellbeing. A range of artists including musicians, spoken word performers, comedians, and speakers will share their thoughts on how we can release the potential in our communities, encouraging us to think and engage on a local level. A free half-day event on Thursday September 26th - from 1-4pm, in collaboration with Shared Vision North focuses on shifting narratives about mental health away from problem-focussed messaging to one of hope, resilience and buoyancy. Speakers confirmed thus far include Caitlin Smith, Daniel Goodwin, Gemishka Chetty and Carol Ryan of Hearts and Minds who will address health and unity in local communities.
Another new festival development for 2019 is Pride Box. The first ever LGBTQI+ boxing fitness classes, Taurima Vibes whānau member Ardon England aims to help build a strong, confident and empowered queer community while breaking down stigma and discrimination within the boxing industry one punch at a time. The brand-new course launches as part of Atawhai at Boxing Central with the support of Taurima Vibes ongoing support networks and mentorship.
The Atawhai Festival is an ongoing initiative created in response to the need for greater education of mental distress, growing community connectivity, and developing a deeper understanding of lived experience. Atawhai (meaning generosity/ to show kindness) aims to combat negative perceptions through the arts, challenging pervasive dialogue and negative stereotypes that are present in our society, and channel responses to these issues through the arts and artists. Atawhai is also dedicated to ensuring that these responses are handled by care, supporting artists on an often-distressing journey to represent themselves authentically and ensuring audiences can engage meaningfully.