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Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival Announces First Event For 2020

Digital revival of Gisborne’s beloved Millennium Tile Wall, 20 years on

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival has today announced its first project for 2020, ahead of the second festival which will take place in Gisborne from 2 to 11 October this year.

Pakiwaitara is a digital retrospective of Gisborne’s beloved Tile Wall – a vibrant display of over 6000 hand-painted tiles, which was created in 1999 ahead of the Millennium celebrations and lives at the Gisborne Inner Harbour.

In 1999, the project, led by Melody Craw, sought to capture the youth of Te Tairāwhiti at the turn of the Millenium. The tiles were distributed to primary and intermediate schools across the region and the children each had one task: to paint a self-portrait of themselves on their tile, which would then be added to the wall – now a Gisborne icon.

Twenty years on, Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival is asking, “If this wall could talk and these tiles had voices, what would they tell us about who and where those children are today?”

Pakiwaitara is an interactive online platform for people to reconnect with the individuals whose tiles are on the millennium wall, follow their 20-year journeys and discover the talents they have developed along the way. It will become not only an online space for expression and authentic meeting place for people of te Tairāwhiti, but also a valuable digital archive.

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival CEO and Artistic Director Tama Waipara says, “Given the state of the world at this moment in time, Pakiwaitara is an opportunity to connect with our community from around the globe. During the rāhui, people turned to digital channels and online arts events to pass time and raise their spirits. This project follows on from that, to bring uplift and connection.

“The Festival kaupapa is about our people and this place. Pakiwaitara will deliver a space for our people to come together following a period in which they weren’t able to connect physically,” Waipara says.

The project is being led by a much loved Tairāwhiti son, former solicitor and now Managing Director of Iwicomms, David Jones (Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kahungunu). As a child, Jones painted his own tile for the wall and, as the COVID-19 pandemic took grasp of the world, he created a new vision to implement this project.

Jones says, “This project brings one of the largest youth arts projects back to life, viewed through a 2020 lens. This is a fantastic opportunity to take stock of our people, and hear their stories about where they are and what they are doing in the world. Pakiwaitara seeks to weave together stories, perspectives, people and places, art, and expression; using digital media as the platform and I’m excited by the opportunity to work with our community to build this wall together.”

The Festival is calling out to people whose portraits are on the 1999 Millennium Tile Wall. The artists, who will now be aged 25 to 35 are invited to sign-up online and share photos, videos – in the way of kōrero, waiata or performance – or other artworks they may have created in the last 20 years. The general public will be able to access the site, and themselves follow the tile wall participants’ journeys over the last two decades.

Following a brilliant inaugural festival in 2019, Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival is looking ahead to its 2 to 11 October 2020 event. Since the move to Level 1, the Festival team has commenced planning a number of music, performance, dance and visual arts events which both deliver to the Festival’s kaupapa but ensure safe gathering for all attendees.

For more information, please visit

Images by Cody Keepa / Keepa Digital:

Are you on the Millennium Tile Wall? If so, Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival wants to hear from you!


Head to to register and claim your tile. On the site, you’ll find plenty of information on the project and how to get involved. You can also follow the project via Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival’s Facebook page.

For further information, images and interviews, please contact Siobhan Waterhouse on or 022 126 4149.

Pakiwaitara is proudly presented by Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival with generous support from Creative New Zealand and Trust Tairāwhiti. Kia haumaru te noho.

© Scoop Media

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