Whakanuia: What Not to Miss at Auckland Writers Festival 2021

The Pantograph Punch team brings you our top picks from this year's Auckland Writers Festival programme.

Posted on
04.05.21

Auckland Writers Festival 2021 has officially opened for ticket sales! Running from 11–16 May, the shadow of last year's cancellation lingers to remind us how lucky we are to gather anew for this plethora of lovingly crafted conversations, performances and workshops.

Pantograph Punch director Lana Lopesi, editor Ataria Sharman and staff writers Anna McAllister and Sinead Overbye bring you the events that most excite us in this year's programme. But get in quick before they sell out.

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Tino rangatiratanga in publishing

Friday 12th May, 11:00am

Free event

It’s no secret that self-publishing is one of my favourite avenues for bringing creative writing into the world! This event is a deep dive into the many reasons why Māori choose to self-publish instead of opting for more mainstream publishers. This is really one of the most exciting moves in Māori writing, as it helps us assert and reclaim tino rangatiratanga over our own whakaaro and creative outputs. I’m really looking forward to hearing this kōrero, particularly as it features three incredible writers speaking across generations. –SO

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Pasifika Moana Qaqa: Avia, Marsh, Mila

Friday 14th May 12:30pm

Free event

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the matriarchs in my own whakapapa and how strong wāhine have influenced my life. For me, there’s nothing more inspiring and empowering than sitting in amongst a group of indigenous women and listening to them talk. Tusiata, Selina and Karlo are surely the best Pasifika poets alive at the moment, and I’m already tearing up at the thought of them all being in the same room and sharing their wisdom! –SO

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A Long Road: Kedgley & Te Awekotuku

Friday 14 May, 5:00pm

Tickets from $20

Just the thought of being in the room with these two outstanding wāhine toa excites me. It’ll be a big room too, with plenty of chairs between us, but I hope some of the mana might still rub off on me? No, but seriously, fifty years on from their March in 1971, Te Awekotuku and Kedgley are here to reflect on an epic haerenga of gender equality and women’s rights (that still continues). If you’re any kind of self-respecting feminist or Indigenous activist, I think you’d be remiss to miss this ;) –AS

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Fale Aitu: Knightley & Rodger

Sunday 16 May, 2:00pm

Free event

The two artists in this talanoa chaired by our new interim director Lana Lopesi are absolute legends. My earliest memories of Oscar Knightley went something along the lines of “Duckrockers for life!” but he’s had a multifaceted artistic career outside of his movie success. And I met critically acclaimed and award-winning playwright Victor Rodger once, well kind of, we were in the same University of Wellington Café. I toyed with introducing myself but then didn’t, which shows the awe in which I stalkishly hold him. –AS

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Michael King Memorial Lecture - Too Many Cooks?: Alice Te Punga Somerville

Sunday 16 May, 11:00am

Free event

It’s no secret; I’ve always been a fangirl of Indigenous and Pacific studies scholar Alice Te Punga Somerville! Her latest work, the BWB text Two Hundred and Fifty Ways to Start an Essay About Captain Cook, is a small book that packs some big laughs. With precision and nuance, Te Punga Somerville takes us through the intricacies of Cook’s legacy. In the Michael King Memorial lecture, Te Punga Somerville continues the work of the book to reflect on the many stories we tell about Cook and his legacy and what they suggest about the different futures imagined for Aotearoa. –LL

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Speakers’ Corner: This Pākehā Life

Saturday 15 May 1:00pm

Free Event

One of the most critical Pākehā books to come out this year is undoubtedly This Pākehā Life: An Unsettled Memoir by Alison Jones. Shortlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards, This Pākehā Life is truly a vital read for all those who consider themselves allies to tāngata whenua. Alison Jones can interrogate whiteness in a universally approachable way. It highlights the importance of Pākehā first looking at their own identity on this whenua before co-opting Māori identities. This talk is a must-see for Pākehā. –AM

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Conversations: Ai Weiwei 

Friday 14 May, 8:00pm

Tickets from $20

Artist and activist Ai Weiwei was a bit of a hero during my time at art school for his social and political commentary. His new book Conversations records candid dialogue between Weiwei and other critical thinkers. In these Conversations, Weiwei addresses his relationship with China, the meaning of citizenship, how to make art, and technology as a tool for freedom of oppression. Weiwei will be live-streaming into a conversation with film producer and director Chelsea Winstanley A duo I’m super intrigued to see in conversation. –LL

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Somewhere A Cleaner

Saturday 15 May 5:00pm

Free event

In my personal opinion, everyone is creative, and anyone can be a writer. I know, I know, I’m very sorry to those who believe otherwise, and it kind of ruins the competitive advantage ‘a real writer’ might have over a ‘not real writer’. But that’s why I love creative kaupapa that reminds us that we all have words of value, including if our profession isn’t as a writer it’s as a cleaner. Broaden your horizons and explore the worlds of cleaning and writing, forevermore mutually inclusive. –AS

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Ngā Oro Hou - The New Vibrations

Saturday 15 May 8pm

Tickets from $25

If I could invite anyone I wanted to a dinner party, it would be Tusiata Avia, Becky Manawatu, essa may ranapiri, Ruby Solly, Anahera Gildea, Arihia Latham and Ariana Tikao. I mean, HOLY HEKA! Ngā Oro Hou is a vibration I need to get on. This evening performance weaves together poetry and performance like only tāngata o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa can. Curated by the fantastic Ruby Solly, Ngā Oro Hou is sure to delight the wairua. Make sure you secure your ticket to this very, very special event. –AM

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Saltwater People

Friday 14th May 3:30pm

Free event

I love it when artists creative engage and respond to one another’s work using their own artistic medium. In this session, three Pasifika writers will respond with writing about Tautai Gallery’s recent exhibition SALTWATER / Interconnectivity. These kinds of conversations, weaving between artforms, about what it means to be tangata moana today, are so necessary for us to be engaging in across Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. What better way to facilitate this kōrero than to create new written works of art. –SO