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Auckland communities tell the stories of our incredibly diverse city


In 2017, for the first time, Auckland Arts Festival is producing Whānui – five large-scale, community-based projects that will widen the Festival’s embrace from Otara to Northcote, Henderson to Glenn Innes and Flat Bush.

Whānui is a series of participatory works commissioned by the Auckland Arts Festival in collaboration with established artists and community representatives. All five projects culminate in a free event, giving as many people as possible the opportunity to see the power of community art in practice.

Featuring hundreds of participants, including 40 photographers aged 6 to 12yrs, Whānui is a celebration and showcase of the diversity of our Tāmaki Makaurau.

Auckland Arts Festival Artistic Director, Carla van Zon says, “Diversity is at the heart of the Auckland Arts Festival’s programming philosophy, and we are committed to engaging with the many different people who call Auckland home. The Festival not only wants to connect with this vast audience, but also with each community’s stories, ideas and performances.

“While we have collaborated with a wide range of artists in the past, Whānui is an exciting new collaboration between the Festival and a number of different communities and age groups, where the artwork is developed by the participants to enjoy with their families and friends. Already our hearts have been warmed by the delight on children’s faces as they receive their cameras in the Eye Spy project, and we are so excited by the unique photographs they are producing. We can’t wait to share these and many more stories, sounds and flavours of Auckland in March.”

Whānui is supported by Creative New Zealand and Foundation North through The Auckland Diversity Project Fund.


The five projects are:

He Korowai Hapori (Our Community Cloak) 
Blessing & Opening at 1-12.30pm on Saturday 18 March
Exhibition at Te Whare Piringa, 29A Fenchurch Street, Glenn Innes, 18-26 March

Auckland’s landscape is changing at lightning speed, with Glen Innes as one of the epicentres of the housing developments.

He Korowai Hapori is a project lead by Ruapotaka Marae to create a large-scale korowai, that will incorporate 7,500 tiny perspex houses. Throughout February, dozens of people from a cross-section of community groups are joining in the creative process at Ruapotaka Marae and Te Whare Piringa Fenchurch.

Samaroh – The Great Indian Carnival
Saturday 18 March 6-10pm at Sandringham Road Reserve

Sandringham is already famous for its abundance of eateries from across the South East Asian region. In March, Prayas Theatre Company will be ramping up the spice and colour saturation, transforming Sandringham Road Reserve with the hustle, bustle, sights and sounds of an Indian night market. With street performers and live music, there’s also a special don’t-miss mention for the Bollywood karaoke. 

Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 March 8pm at Māngere Arts Centre

The Pacific Islands are amongst the first countries in the world to be affected by climate change, as their precious landmass succumbs to rising sea levels.

Created by a group of some of Auckland's emerging Pacific theatre artists alongside as many as 50 community members, Fonua (Tongan for Land) is a performance piece from our Polynesian community, incorporating dance, music, and song.

Repertoire: Hip Hop Frequencies & Visual Sequences
Saturday 11 March 11am-3pm at Tōia, Ōtāhuhu (watch the creation of street art) & Saturday 18 March 10pm-1am at Basement Theatre and Bar, Auckland (MC event)

In an age where contemporary American culture dominates our screens and airwaves, it’s often the case that our own NZ stories are left unknown and untold.

Working in collaboration with radio REPFM, six MCs from all over Tāmaki Makaurau, and six street artists from FDKNS (Forever Def Kings Never Surrender) will embark on an Auckland-wide bus-tour to learn stories from their own communities, before responding to these insights through hip hop and art. 

Eye Spy

Give 40 cameras to 40 kids, add in some professional photography guidance and workshops, and the result is a fresh perspective on young lives and what is important to them. 

With the chance that among these young creatives are tomorrow’s leaders and decision makers, their young view of the world should be noted. Giving them these new skills are four respected professional photographers: Brendan Kitto, Emily Mafile’o, Raymond Sagapolutele and Jos Wheeler.

Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple in Flat Bush, 8-23 March
Northart at Northcote Shopping Centre, 11-23 March
Otara Leisure Centre, 8-26 March
Corban Estate Art Centre in Henderson, 17-20 March

One photo from each child will also be exhibited in the Festival Garden for the duration of the Festival. And be sure to look out for Phantom posters around the central city!




Taking place annually in March, the Auckland Arts Festival is a globally recognised event that celebrates people and culture, and showcases the unrivalled location, cultural diversity and vibrant energy of New Zealand’s largest city. Over 1.6 million people have attended the Festivals to date.

Auckland Arts Festival is governed by the Auckland Festival Trust. Trustees are John Judge (Chair), Rick Carlyon, Evan Davies, Sarah Judkins, Tarun Kanji, Margaret Kāwharu MNZM, Jim Moser, Ben Taufua, Angela Clatworthy and Fred Ward. The Trust receives core funding from Auckland Council through the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Act, and Creative New Zealand through the Toi Tōtara Haemata programme.

The Executive Team comprises Chief Executive David Inns and Artistic Director, Carla van Zon.

Significant support for AAF 2017 is received from Foundation North, Pub Charity, NZ Community Trust and The Lion Foundation.