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Over the wide blue yonder…to our neighbours

29 Apr 2013

This content is tagged as All Artforms .

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Stephen Wainwright
Posted by Stephen Wainwright

Chief Executive - Pou Whakahaere

I have been privileged to be in Santiago, Chile for my first meeting as a new board member for IFAACA (International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies).

Chile is a 12 hour flight from Auckland, and yet Chileans are both our Pacific neighbours and Easter Island/Rapanui, about 8,000 kilometres from Auckland, is the outer limit of Polynesia.

While my time was dominated by planning for the next IFAACA Conference, which takes place in Santiago in January, there were also opportunities to explore other connections with our Pacific neighbours.

A couple of years ago New Zealand’s waka Tohunga Hector Busby told us that his last navigational mission was to complete the Polynesian triangle and sail from Tahiti to Rapanui. This voyage has now been completed and it was interesting to hear about it from a Chilean perspective.

There were tears of joy as the Māori crew met the people of Rapanui, who found to their delight that they could both understand the visitors and were connected by culture, tikanga, stories and migration.

In Santiago I went to the exhibition Kermadec Nine Artists Explore the South Pacific, which I had recently seen at the City Gallery (Wellington). I also spoke to the director of the Santiago Arts Festival (via a translator) who was also hoping to programme dance from our part of the world.

This all goes to the point that art from our place makes its way around the world, and in a country where Spanish dominates our non-text based art dominates.

In Santiago art does seem to be part of everyday life. Murals in public spaces add zest to concrete. Chileans are fond of primary colours in a very un-Wellington way.

Mural in Santiago

At the GAM Cultural Centre I was also struck by groups of teenagers working on their contemporary dance moves, using the reflective glass as a mirror. Apparently in Chile it is cool for teenage boys to dance, which is sadly not what I hear from my teenagers.

Young men dancing in Chile

It was a good week and I expect that there will be some good outcomes for New Zealand artists.