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An arts challenge for Christmas

9 Dec 2017

This content is tagged as All Artforms .

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Stephen Wainwright
Posted by Stephen Wainwright

Chief Executive - Pou Whakahaere

There is no escaping that Christmas and the Christmas holidays are just around the corner.

Beyond eager anticipation of a holiday, this hectic time of year evokes a range of responses. Here is  one I wish to share with you as it goes to the heart of our work in the arts.

A very short story.  My wife and I have two offspring, young-ish men now, but once young boys. As you will know young folk get pretty excited about Christmas day and tend to wake up early. Parents hope that something in their Christmas stockings will distract them until at least 7am.

Hope is not a plan

In a Christmas past there was a great disturbance in our household when that hope was shattered, well before 6 am on 25 December, by loud sobbing from our youngest child.

Once he was calmed to the point where he could speak, his response to the age old parental question “What’s the matter?” was: “It’s not snowing!”

Our son, and I guess very many other kids, during December, had been bombarded with Christmas images and narratives. These were  almost exclusively from the Northern hemisphere. So for him it was logical to expect snow on Christmas day, just like in all the movies he had seen – reindeer of course live in the snow, Santa has a snow sleigh…and so on.

Our son felt that what he had awoken to was inferior to the winter wonderland promised by popular culture. This cultural capital deficit is irksome.

Bringing it home

Arts people, my invitation to you is to consider how we can ‘bring it on home’ this year and reduce that deficit. The good news is, it’s absolutely possible.

If gifting is on the cards, we can buy awesome New Zealand craft, design and artworks from many commercial galleries. Subscriptions are available from most performing arts companies and are a great gift.

In the Wellington environs we are fortunate to have excellent stores at our public art institutions such as City GalleryTe PapaPataka and The Dowse Art Museum. Festival tickets to New Zealand work are an option, or you can, in this the digital era, help point people in a particular direction.

Suggestions for your gifting

Instead of, or in addition to, the tried and true Christmas tunes we can listen to our terrific New Zealand musicians.

  • If popular New Zealand music is your thing, or a thing for friends or whanau, you can point people to New Zealand music on Spotify or if New Zealand music of a more classical bent appeals SOUNZ Resound Audio is a great destination.
  • For readers the longlist for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for 2018 offers an excellent list of possibilities and for young people you can also check reviews of the latest books for children and young adults by school librarians and teachers on the New Zealand Book Council website.
  • For those keen on Maori writing in English and te reo, specialists include: Oratia books, Huia and Anahera Press.
  • Finally there is now a Kiwi Christmas movie (YouTube, 2 mins) –  the first I can recall – that puts Santa in our southern Summer, rather than the northern Winter.

This is not intended to be exhaustive list, rather to promote the idea that over Christmas arts people have a great opportunity to ensure that our arts and our cultural expression has pride of place.

Trees at the Meteor (Vimeo, 3 mins), in Hamilton, is back in 2017.  It’s an excellent example of community building, New Zealand style with arts participation at its core. Or if you fancy doing this at home, making decorations and indeed presents with the family is another possibility.

It seems that personal gifts and experiences that speak of our place and identity, fit extremely well with the Christmas season, proximity of whanau and memory making. In fact, as so often with the arts, it helps make people feel special and connected.

Wherever you are, whomever you are with:

Kua tae ki te mutunga mai o tēnei tau, a kua uru nei tātou ki te wāhanga harikoa o Hineraumati me te whakaaro nui ki o tātou whanau me te aroha ki te tangata. Meri Kirihimete me ngā mihi o te tau hou

The year has ended upon us as we enter the realm of Hineraumati (summer) and focus on our whānau and goodwill to all. Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.