Whakanuia: 6 Things Worth Celebrating in December 2017
Our monthly list of awesome mahi to look forward to. This month features Christmas plays, good art and watercress!
There is not a single blade visible in Us Lucky Observers (2016), yet somehow the scene is clearly a beheading. This is the magic of a Kushana Bush painting – it is the opposite of Chekhov’s gun, its aura deriving from suggestion rather than climax, every delicate detail as strange, vital and perplexing as the next.
This summer at Te Uru, Aucklander’s have the rare opportunity to drink in the Dunedin-based artist’s paintings en masse at her survey exhibition, The Burning Hours. The show focuses on works made between 2014 and 2016 – an impressively short period once you clock the number of meticulous gouaches included, each one filled with references to illuminated manuscripts, Mughal and Persian miniatures, European art history and contemporary life. This is an exhibition you can really linger in, soaking up the rich patterns and glimmering gold leaf details. Definitely worth the drive out to Titirangi, and it’s on right up until the end of February.
BATS caps off the year with The Christmas Detention Centre, a 90-minute victory lap for Wellington director Stella Reid. Reid and her cast and crew of quality Wellington theatremakers bring us the story of Wellington Combined College’s worst-behaved and most detention-friendly students, who’ve been forced by their teachers to mount the school’s annual Christmas show by themselves. Stretched across two stages, the audience divided between the two, it sounds like an unhinged mess in the best, most season-specific way possible.
Winding up to Christmas most galleries have their final exhibitions for the year already open, one which is absolutely worth celebrating is Shannon Te Ao’s (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) With the sun aglow, I have my pensive moods, now on at Te Tuhi. Originally exhibited earlier this year at the 2017 Edinburgh Art Festival this stunning two-channel film has finally made its way home. Beautiful and complex, a must see.
If you see a person prowling a 2x4 fibreglass cage in a Corrections uniform in Auckland's Aotea Square this Saturday, it's not some David Blaine endurance stunt writ small. People Against Prisons Aotearoa are displaying the moveable installation to highlight the state of solitary confinement for this country's prisoner population. As Dr. Sharon Shanley reported in April of this year, seclusion and restraint in Aotearoa facilities can involve deprivation of basic amenities (toilets, running water) and basic stimulus (exercise in fresh air, reading material). It's also disproportionately weaponised against Māori and women. PAPA will be collecting signatures for a petition to call on parliament to end a cruel and dated practice.
The beloved pukapuka, Watercress Tuna and the Children of Champion Street by Patricia Grace and Robyn Kahukiwa, is coming to life this December as part of the Measina Festival by Le Moana dance company. Founded by Tupe Lualua, I have had the honour of seeing a few performances by Le Moana over the past year but this is the one that I am most excited about. Watercress Tuna is a well-read book in my household and one of my favourite memories associated with it was seeing my then 3-year old girl throwing sticks around in the backyard while squealing “mum, do you like my ailao afi?!” Treat yourself this Christmas, get along to the show and then buy yourself the book!
Speaking of Christmas shows, it's Basement Christmas Show time again, and this time crowd favourites A Slightly Isolated Dog (Don Juan) are bringing their inexplicable faux French accents to the Basement's most popular slot of the year. The season which opens tonight includes the traditional surprise lineup of guest performers, but the 2017 season will be unmissable for the company's playful and inclusive ensemble style. Bonus for you if you get Madeleine Sami night.