Auckland, in particular South Auckland, is the hub for Pacific arts on both a mainstream and grass-roots level. On a mainstream level it is the home of a number of annual events.
- From grass-roots beginnings, the fashion and entertainment show Style Pasifika (1993–2011) became a key event of the Real New Zealand Festival during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
- Beginning in 1992, the Pasifika Festival expanded in 2013 to become a weekend event showcasing and sharing music, food, arts and dance from 10 island nations, including New Zealand.
- Polyfest (officially the ASB Auckland Secondary Schools Māori and Pacific Islands Performing Arts Festival), began at Hillary College, Ōtara, South Auckland, in 1976. It is the largest Polynesian festival in the world. Showcasing music, dance, costume and speech, it represents New Zealand’s diverse cultures and celebrates youth performance.
- The Southside Arts Festival (launched in 2008 as the Manukau Festival of Arts, with a name change in 2011) showcases diverse art offerings from South Auckland, including exhibitions, fashion, dance, music and theatre.
- SOUTH is an annual arts publication, launched in 2011, which celebrates ‘the unique Maori and Pacific creative flair emanating from South Auckland!’1
Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust is also based in Auckland. It was established in the 1980s by visual artist Fatu Feu’u and friends, along with a group of emerging artists. In the 2010s it was a key national arts body, supporting the development of Pacific art through fostering and maintaining links with artists of Pacific heritage. It also ran activities and programmes that nurtured and supported the wider Pacific arts infrastructure, providing secondary school workshops, tertiary visits, and nurturing young curators and those writing about Pacific art.
Nurturing arts from Pacific homelands is the purpose of the ‘Pacifica Mamas’ – master artists from the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Fiji, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Tahiti and Hawaii. Working at the Waitākere Pacific Arts Centre (set up in the 1980s), the mamas showcase and share their expertise through educational programmes and festivals, including the Pacifica HeArt Beat and Pacifica Living Arts Festival in March and November each year.
Markets, gallery and theatre
South Auckland is a mecca for Pacific arts. Its markets are well-known places to buy specific types of Pacific art such as tapa, mats, clothing, adornments and T-shirts. The best-known market is on Saturdays in Ōtara, but there are also markets in Māngere and Ōtāhuhu.
Also in Ōtara is the Fresh Gallery Otara. Opened in 2006, it has built a reputation for being an innovative, ground-breaking space while staying accountable and relevant to its community. A few suburbs away is the Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku – which has become a key venue for Pacific theatre.
South Auckland is also the base for creative Pacific groups like the South Auckland Poets Collective, Falepipi he Mafola Niuean Handcraft Group, the band Ardijah, Kulupu Falehanga ’i Teleiloa (a Tongan art group) and the Palace Dance Studio.
It is the home of the record label Dawn Raid Entertainment, through which many of New Zealand’s Pacific hip hop and R&B artists have come – including South Auckland artists Deceptikonz and Adeaze. The international hit song ‘How bizarre’ by the Otara Millionaires’ Club (OMC) also came out of South Auckland – as the band’s name suggests.
Kila Kokonut Krew began as a theatre group then went on to produce music albums and shows in New Zealand and overseas, as well as mentoring up-and-coming playwrights. One of the company’s aims was to raise the professional profile of Pacific artists in South Auckland. In 2011 the company presented New Zealand’s first ever full-length Tongan play, Kingdom of Lote, and New Zealand’s first Pacific musical, The factory, both at Māngere Arts Centre. In 2013 they showcased South Auckland’s first online musical series, The factory, based on the musical of the same name.