A festival like no other, Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival will bring together over 200 artists and performers for the third annual celebration of the arts and the talented East Coast from 8 to 17 October.

Gisborne is a place rich with artistic history and talent, including celebrated performers and artists, both living and remembered. Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival stories are drawn from the expanse of the entire East Cape – linked by whenua and whakapapa – across the motu, and the world. From Tūranganui-a-kiwa to Ruatorea, in October, Gisborne and the wider Tairāwhiti region will be alive with performance, arts, music, and kapa haka.

A world premiere this year is HIHĪ – A song of place, a new opera event comprising songs of Te Tairāwhiti, popular waiata operatised, and operatic arias in te reo Māori, which will be performed at the base of Ahitītī in the beautiful Waihīrere Domain Reserve.

Created by the powerhouse team of Teina Moetara, Ruth Smith, Mere Boynton and Tama Waipara, in partnership with New Zealand Festival of the Arts, HIHĪ combines kapa haka, waiata and opera, features a chamber orchestra of New Zealand Symphony Orchestra musicians, and showcases some of the most remarkable Tairāwhiti ‘songbirds’ amidst the exquisite beauty of the natural environment.

The famous Festival light trail Te Ara I Whiti returns. Te Ara i Whiti is an enchanting multi-media installation of light sculptures, projections and artworks which celebrates connection to place. This year, with guest curation by multi-disciplinary artist and curator, educator and practitioner Melanie Tangaere Baldwin, and created by artists connected to the rohe with the support of award-winning lighting designer Angus Muir, a swathe of spectacular illuminated surprises, large-scale sculptural installations, and projections await those looking for a provocative, playful and whānau-focused evening out. Artists include Chevron Hassett, Erena Koopu, Fiona Collis, George Watson, Huia Edmonds & Ngaire Tuhua, James Tapsell-Kururangi, Johnny Moetara, Maungarongo (Ron) Tekawa, Steve Gibbs, Taupuruariki (Ariki) Whakataka Brightwell, Tāwera Tahuri, and Terangi Roimata Kutia-Tataurangi.

Festival CEO and Artistic Director Tama Waipara says, “The Festival is a celebration of, and a space to highlight, the abundance of creativity in Te Tairāwhiti. The people of this place and the connection to whenua is what makes the experience so special and unique. Our festival shines a light on what our community is capable of – who we are here and why we are here. And in knowing who we are at home, we can welcome others with open hearts, saying, ‘Come for the kaupapa and, while you’re here, experience something new, step outside yourself, and learn something about our region.’”

Chair of Trust Tairāwhiti, John Clarke says the Trust are proud to be the principal supporter of Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival, he says “The Festival has at its heart artists and audiences, with a focus on access and inclusion, it plays a central role in connecting our communities and celebrating the cultural identity of our region and people.”

There are many more events, workshops, tamariki offerings and activities in the Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival programme, see the Festival Launch video below and check out the line-up.

Image credit: Artwork, Fiona Collis