2021 Sucked but There Were Still Unforgettable Moments

The PP crew gives you 7 art moments in 2021: the really high, the fairly low and the unforgettable.

Posted on
19.12.21

Last year we brought you 10 art moments that made 2020 suck a little bit less. Re-reading the introduction by Faith Wilson, our Editor at the time, was sobering if not a bit comic in a depressing kind of way. Nothing can sum up this feeling more than fortune-telling memes: “Does anyone feel troubled by the fact that the name of next year is literally 2020 won?” and, “Thank god 2020 is over. Next year will definitely be better!” With 2021 came the second lockdown, one that was even longer this time for Tāmaki Makaurau, and with bigger ramifications for artists living in the biggest city. Māori academics are leaving Waikato University en masse, and we now have even larger gaps in equality, with house prices still somehow skyrocketing even with legislative changes to stem the tide.

In saying all of that, and as our glass-half-full team shares below, 2021 also brought with it excellent books and a chance for arts kaupapa in the regions to shine. Creatives tested the bounds of their artistic practice and pivoted to digital spaces. With the second lockdown came more advocacy for artists, and communities coming together. As binge-watcher Lana Lopesi basically said a few months ago, New Zealand-made television this year was dreamy. Standouts were Pacific shows The Panthers, Teine Sā and the just-released Scribe, Return of the Crusader. And with all the events that were cancelled this year, when one did somehow sneak through, like the Verb Readers and Writers Festival, it felt even more special to be a part of it.

Some of the Pantograph Punch team – Interim Director Lana Lopesi, Editor Ataria Sharman and staff writers Faith Wilson and Sinead Overbye – have picked art moments from the year that moved us in some way.

A year of good books

Good books got published

I feel like every year for the past few years the quality and breadth of books being published in Aotearoa and/or by Aotearoa writers is just getting better and wider. So many amazing books were published this year in as many different genres. Here’s a few that I have read that I can confirm are bloody good: Rangikura by Tayi Tibble, Bloody Woman by Lana Lopesi, Nostalgia Has Ruined My Life by Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle, Sleeping with Stones by Serie Barford. And here are a few that are sitting on my bedside table (or Christmas wishlist) waiting to be leafed through this summer: Hine and the Tohunga Portal by Ataria Sharman, Please, Call Me Jesus by Sam Te Kani, Whai by Nicole Titihuia Hawkins, Requiem for a Fruit by Rachel O’Neill, Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka and Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers from Aotearoa. Trust that this is just a handful of the amazing books that were published this year – there are so many, and it’s a testament to the damn talent we got. I can’t wait to see what treasures 2022 brings in this space. – FW

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival

Te Tairāwhiti came through!

My favourite moments of any year are always those times when I get to return home – kia pupuri ai e te hau o Tāwhirimātea, and all that. Returning home this year, after lockdown, I was just in time to explore the Tairāwhiti Arts Festival. The light show Te Ara i Whiti was one of my highlights of the year. I got to experience works like Te Rerenga Te Whai by Johnny Moetara, Humi by George Watson, Hinetakurua by Ron TeKawa and even James Tapsell-Kururangi’s He Waiata Aroha, sitting next to the river that I wrote about in a review of the piece earlier this year. It always surprises me when people outside the regions are saying things like, “We’ve gotta make it to Gisborne this year!”, but the arts festival has made Gizzy a hot destination for toi Māori in particular. While home, I also popped into Hoea! Art Gallery, who were exhibiting Pounamu Wharekawa and Sheri Osden Nault, among others. The many different rooms around the gallery were fun to explore, and the installations impressive. It’s a community vibe there, with each artist’s work speaking to the one in the next room. I must also give a shout to Toi Ake, another favourite Gizzy gallery of mine. It’s a big deal for regional events to be thriving like this. Tairāwhiti has become a hub of artistic activity, and everyone wants to be a part of it. – SO

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Tāmaki Makaurau theatre makers came together

Tāmaki Makaurau theatre makers came togetherI’m not a theatre maker myself, but this year it became apparent to me that the extended Delta lockdown was devastating for theatre in Tāmaki Makaurau. Artists had projects that they’d been working on for months cancelled immediately, or postponed indefinitely. A letter was put out by Basement Theatre explaining their decision to not platform anymore shows for 2021, a nod to the pressure of asking artists to make and then inevitably ‘un-produce’ their works in the chaotic Covid-19 environment. But out of all this, it was inspiring to see the drive for advocacy. Te Taumata Toi-A-Iwi carried out a second state-of-the-arts survey during the second lockdown to provide insight into the impact of the restrictions, and Alice Canton, Samuel Snedden and Johanna Cosgrove collected data from independent practitioners amid concerns their voices were being lost in the kōrero. Basement Theatre’s board gave a $500 goodwill gesture to their Spring risk-share artists who’d had their season affected by lockdown, and put out a call to the public to support as well. Nahyeon Lee interviewed theatre makers in this piece on the concerns of the performing arts industry, and instead of cancelling or postponing the much-loved show Break Bread, Silo Theatre produced it as a digital work – still open for showings until this Sunday. – AS

Cast of Break Bread

Dare I say “Digital pivots”?

I know digital pivots of those things that we rather enjoy irl or afk are the bane of many Aucklanders’ existence at this stage, but there was some digital viewing that helped get me through four months of me, myself and my two kids. One was absolutely Friday night watching Two Hearts Heartcore Karaoke, a phenomenal evening viewing of live technological mishaps, comedic brilliance, great outfits and surprisingly good singing. Paul Ego singing Lorde still has me a bit shook. In a very different vein of digital production, Silo Theatre’s Break Bread remains a highlight of making the digital work for you, and not undervaluing your work at the same time. In saying all of that, long live the live performance – *touch wood. – LL

Food Court Books

Food Court hosted some cosy events (and launched a new press?!)

I spent a lot of time inside this year, but the few times I did venture out it seemed to be for poetry readings and literary events. My most memorable poetry moments this year have been at Food Court Books. Caro and Jackson have held so many lovely events, from a Takatāpui reading with Same Same But Different, to a series of online poetry readings, through to hosting us for Verb Festival events in the Newtown Stroll. They also launched We Are Babies press this year, who have already published two incredible books, with others forthcoming. It’s always so nice to be at Food Court, whether it’s reading, listening, having a yarn, buying a book, or drawing. So I must shout out to the Food Court team for creating such an inviting and cosy space! I look forward to seeing how their vision continues to grow. – SO

Bingeing Brown feature image by Lana Lopesi

We watched heaps of TV

Okay, maybe this isn’t art, and maybe this was just me, but I watched record amounts of telly this year, and I put it down to the l word – no, not love, yes – lockdown, and having literally nowhere else to escape to in the past few months. After my partner and I clocked Netflix we made the switch to Neon and are now rapidly familiarising ourselves with its fare. I could lie, and tell you I sat down and watched some clever documentaries, and those tastefully artful TV shows my friends are always telling me to watch, but it’s honestly mostly been Sex and the City and Gossip Girl reruns… and, yes, I’ve already watched the first two episodes of And Just Like That… and, yes, it was every bit as cringey but desperately watchable as you’d expect it to be. But while I’m here talking about television I should mention the amazing Pacific shows that were released this year: The Panthers, Teine Sā and probably the only documentary you’re gonna catch me watching this side of Christmas (how many have I watched? Not many, if any – lol sorry) Scribe, Return of the Crusader. – FW

Matariki Williams, Whiti Hereaka, Nadine Anne Hura and Renée in Tui, tui, tuiā at Verb Festival 2021. Image: Rebecca McMillan Photography

Verb Festival still happened

Amid the mass cancellation of arts performances, events and festivals in the weeks following the second lockdown, one somehow still made it through the mayhem: Verb Wellington Readers and Writers Festival 2021. And I’m so glad it did. I was blown away at the dedication, attention to detail and ‘artists first’ attitude that Festival Director Claire Mabey and her team brought to this extraordinary celebration of books. Honestly, it felt as though it was all for the writers; all these events had been magicked out of thin air for the sole purpose of showcasing them and their works, which conversely created an experience of total delight for readers, too. So much work goes into running a festival like this. Then double, or even triple, that when you’re working with changing Covid-19 rules and restrictions. Tāmaki Makaurau-based writers were unable to attend, the programme was reworked multiple times, and ticket numbers for some events were halved. This cocktail of chaos made it feel like even more of a privilege to have experienced this coven-themed festival against all odds. – AS

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