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Polynesian Creative Programme Flourishes In COVID-19 Environment

As New Zealand and the world continues to come to terms with the new realities of life during COVID-19, work has continued to promote the development of international export opportunities for Māori and Pacific creatives. The inaugural Polynesian Creative Cluster Business Programme, funded by the North Asia Centre for Asia Pacific Excellence (North Asia CAPE) commenced during the lockdown period with five creative Māori and Pacific businesses chosen from over 30 applications looking to extend their knowledge of Japanese and Korean markets.

Hosted by the University of Auckland, the work of North Asia CAPE focuses on providing opportunities for diverse New Zealand businesses to build stronger, more sustainable, and authentic relationships with North Asian countries. North Asia CAPE Director, Professor Paul Clark says he “is pleased that the North Asia CAPE is continuing to provide nimble, relevant and timely support for Māori and Pacific creative entrepreneurs to develop export pathways.”

Japan and South Korea are amongst New Zealand’s top five export destinations and there is increasing potential for new export opportunities, particularly for Pacific and Māori businesses here in New Zealand. North Asia CAPE’s Programme Manager, Laura Bunting says, “New Zealand is continually becoming more attractive to the Asia markets because of the Pacific culture here. This makes us unique and separates us from Australia and other countries.”

The five businesses cross a diverse range of creative industries and as a group represent the potential of Māori and Pacific creative collectives to draw upon the strength of their shared origins to develop meaningful export pathways that are driven by their significant cultural capital. The businesses who gained entry into the programme following a competitive application process, include Industrial Designer Dylan Mulder, Lissy Cole Designs, Tuhi Stationery, Malae Collective and ARA journeys. The group produces products across several creative disciplines including digital storytelling, Augmented Reality and Gaming, Virtual Reality and AI design, Māori inspired stationery and planning tools based on the principles of Maramataka, jewellery, textiles, photography and large crochet sculptural fine art pieces. The “expansiveness and talent amongst the group is phenomenal” says Bunting.

The North Asia CAPE has partnered with Oyster Workshop to deliver the programme over the next five months. The two organisations have worked together previously in 2019 on a programme that supported six Māori and Pacific fashion designers to showcase their work at Hong Kong Fashion Week. Insights from this programme paved the way for a new approach to bring creatives and creative entrepreneurs together through a collective working model. Oyster Workshop Director, Kim Tuaine is excited about the businesses in this current cohort. “The Polynesian Creative Cluster Programme is the first of its kind in New Zealand. The programme takes businesses through a series of one-on-one and group sessions that work alongside a holistic support system that provides a highly customised approach to each business developing commercial essentials and in market knowledge.”

Participants are excited to take part in the programme and are already seeing the benefits, "This programme has given us the opportunity to dream really big! It's exciting to think how we as indigenous artists can enter markets we hadn't previously thought possible and make meaningful connections" says artist Lissy Cole.

The programme has been able to continue its delivery throughout COVID-19 due to online platform meetings and group sessions over five months from May 2020. As the country enters Level 2, the cohort are excited that an in person gathering may be able to take place in the near future to further cement the relationships that have formed in a digital space over the last month.

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