Creative Kupu

What is Creative Kupu?

It is a mātauranga Māori focused initiative that offers accessibility to creativity for kids. The kaupapa of Creative Kupu is therefore guided by tāmariki in what they’re interested in writing, and in developing through a series of workshops and wānanga.  

Why am I interested in making this more accessible to kids here? 

In 2016 I was asked by my friend who was teaching at the time to write a play for their school in Papakura, South Tāmaki. They told me that their budget was small, and that the Ministry of Education asked for $1500 for the licencing rights to use the same old play that the kids didn’t know, and couldn’t relate to. I wrote Young Mana for a koha, so that the school could use the remaining pūtea to put on a cool production, rent out a theatre, have costumes and even a sound technician. 

Young Mana was written from my own experience growing up as an urban Māori in Tūranga-nui-a-kiwa, in Elgin. Although locationally different, my observations spent in Papakura showed me that economically and demographically, we were exactly the same.

I pulled in elements that I considered exciting, and had hoped the kids acting the parts would too. 

The genre of the play is fantasy, and utilises manu, kuri, taniwha, and the kiore to represent key characters. Mana endures a necessary journey in discovering his whakapapa, alongside the guidance of his Mum and a few friends.

Back in June I started 1-hour weekly workshops at my old primary school, Elgin. I wanted to bring the pilot of Creative Kupu, a series of creative writing workshops to Tūranga-nui-a-kiwa for my part in the ONO Project.

This seemed like a good opportunity for me to reconnect with the school where my creativity was first noticed.

Coming back into Elgin was nothing but a warm memory for me. This feeling was only continued when I was openly embraced by the Principal to come in and run these workshops. 

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t keen to develop a play with these kids. However, this time, I wanted to give the kids full autonomy over the story, and therefore over their creative pieces, so that the characters they would be ‘playing’ wouldn’t be from someone else’s perspective. 

Because I want them to be excited by whatever they create, I asked them to write down on a piece of paper the kind of creative writing they’d like to develop. 

I also asked the kids what they wanted to focus on, because I wanted to make best use of a short time spent at the school. We all know that creative processes take adults weeks, months and sometimes even years. Having 5 weeks; 5 hours to take the kids to a space of creating with purpose is difficult, and I’m sure teachers can vouch for me on that. 

When I introduced myself to these kids, I proposed that I really wanted to develop works with them, to keep in touch, and to see their mahi produced into something like the production shown above. 

I wanted to see what they would focus on, and figuring that out required trialling one out of the two top options, Songs and a Play.  

We started with songs, taking one kid’s suggestion to watch an exclusively PG video clip of their current favourite song, ‘Don’t Worry Baby’, covered by Tomorrow People. 

I had to tell them that the original was actually sung by a group of American men in the 60’s. 

They didn’t like that so much. 

I asked them to respond to the song, how it made them feel. 

And this one just cracked me up. This kid wanted to write their own song, but needed the teacher to write while they said the lyrics.  

“Girl can you hear the drums?

Girl can you hear the guitar?

Girl can you hear my heart? 

Girl do you know that you make me bad.

Bad, bad, bad. 

Girl do you need a Knight in shining

Armour?”

They later asked me if I could send these lyrics to Three Houses Down.

 This process was difficult because the song chosen didn’t interest the majority of the group. I would say 40% of the class actually enjoyed the song, while the remaining found it a bit lame. Creating their own lyrics would too prove a bit daunting, with many feeling whakamā around expectation. 

Lyricism is time consuming, requiring time to reflect on personal feelings and experiences. Some of the kids opened up about their feelings, but were reluctant to put that down on a piece of paper. The kōrero was pretty special, and still counts as process. 

I decided we’d give that a break, and trial something else the following week. 

In the next session, I decided to push songs aside and trial the play workshop. I thought that something we could get out of an hour would be creating a character – how fun I thought. Turns out that this required a bit of unpacking too, and that agreeing to them using their chromebooks would benefit some, while distract the remaining. Creativity comes in many forms, I decided. 

One of the kids showing me the drawings they had done in their creative writing book. The drawings were incredibly detailed, and involved illustrations I’m dubious would be of interest to kids. I have a feeling that an older sibling drew them, but still this kid’s interest in drawing is obvious to me.

Anime seemed to be a huge theme here, with this kid showing me a character they had “made up”. The character is Todoroki, who has the catch phrase: “It’s not your fault, we’re just playing on different levels”.

Pre-existing or not, the character sounded sassy, which I like. 

I thought for the longest time that these kids were super talented drawers, until I noticed them all folding their chromebook’s down so that they could trace pictures. Hei aha.

It was cool to learn that Dragon Ball Z was making a comeback.  

This kid had traced a video game character. They were telling me all about how unspotabble the character was, and so I suggested they could create a character that would be able to defeat them. We ended up just talking about video games. 

“My character is a girl. She loves drawing her name is Lia. She’s pretty (<3) her hair is blonde and her teeth are bright and white. She is 38 years old and if she was in a movie she would go on an adventure with her drawing book and pencil, and whatever she drew would come to life.” 

I was blown away by the imagination in the creation of this character. The idea that Lia could draw things to life excited me, and I wanted to understand how that would look. 

This is clearly someone who loves creative writing, and a student who might be interested in continuing onward with this kaupapa. 

The kids are on their school break currently, but when they return, we will pick up where we left off and continue developing characters, and moving on to placing the character into a scene.

Massive aroha to Elgin Primary School, to the Principal for entrusting me into this space, the teacher for their huge support and flexibility, and of course to these kids who willingly engage in their creative processes. 

Ngā mihi aroha,

Jordan Walker, Creative Kupu

THIS IS THE ESSENCE OF TAIRĀWHITI /JANUARY 27, 2021

This is the Essence of Tairāwhiti, a one day event celebrating local producers and providers, hunter gatherers, and performers. All of these elements collide to produce an energetic vibe for sharing kai. Unlike other food festival models that provide space for vendors to compete for customers, Essence of Tairāwhiti provides a space of equal footing; where your all-inclusive ticket enables you to taste everything from everyone. That’s a lot of kai. You could say it’s a real ‘bang for your buck’, or more so, for your puku. 

We’re talking 1kg worth of kai. Can you handle it? But what’s even better is that the kai is locally sourced from passionate hunter gatherers of our region, from Ruatoria all the way down to Morere, “from both sides of the maunga and moana”. The freshly caught kai is then publicly prepared by incredible local chefs. And if you’re not already plump with anticipation, the kai is also cleverly paired with wines from local wineries such as Long Bush, Spade Oak, TW and Bushmere. This is a foodie’s Utopia.  

Already floundering for a ticket?

Surely you’re as interested as I was to find out who is delivering a food festival of this magnitude. I recently had the pleasure of meeting local foodies Katie and Drew Hill, and their fellow collaborator Stephane Dussau. The trio tautoko the vision of this kaupapa; to feed souls with goodness through sharing local produce and knowledge.

The trio understand more than the recipes one can scribe up in the kitchen. What better way to manaaki visitors than with a philosophy that emulsifies community through food?  

Drew and Katie are also producers of The Food Cartel, with a business model that simmers with the same philosophy; sharing local kai, supporting and educating diets. Stephane Dussau, ex-owner and Chef of Marina Restaurant adds a flame to this mix. Not only with his focus on quality (and we’re talking Michelin star quality!), but because he has a deep desire to celebrate this region.

It’s starting to sound as though the trio have always been destined to do this. In fact, in watching Drew and Katie interact with Stephane, you too would have sworn that they had known one another for years. Lounging over the backyard couches and seamlessly bouncing kōrero off of one another. Lifelong friends, surely. Stephane told me that he’s been hanging out with the pair for only one month. I was shucked.

The value and philosophy behind Essence of Tairāwhiti is clearly contagious, with local businesses offering support by way of time and resources. They’ve snagged local hunter gatherers from all over the motu, such as Sam the trap man, Hunting with Tui and many more who will demonstrate their knowledge and share their passions for hunting and gathering kai and kaimoana. 

Essence of Tairāwhiti also aims to educate diets. The trio shared with me a story of their own journey, where they recently headed down to the beach to collect seaweed to see if they could cook it. They collected neptune’s necklace and brown kelp and made seaweed fritters,

“We’re learning things as well. Seaweed tastes like mushroom and aubergine. Then we added kelp, and kelp is like chilli!”

The three often reflect back to lockdown, where we all learnt that one can definitely not eat money. However one can learn how to be self-sufficient and sustainable; how to grow and gather kai, and Essence of Tairāwhiti aims to demonstrate just how accessible kai can be in our region.

To help you along on your own educational journey, food passports showcasing the 22 tastings will be provided. The idea behind this kaupapa is not only to guide your memory (after one too many wines), but also provide a recipe for each tasting so that you’ll be able to recreate these dishes for your whānau and friends. Now that’s clever.

How will I get there you ask? Well, Essence of Tairāwhiti have got you covered. A bus ticket to and from the festival is all-inclusive to ensure you travel safe. Your destination is the dreamy stables of the A&P Showgrounds where you will be greeted with an etched glass and tote bag for your own hunting and gathering. Representatives from each hapu and iwi of Tairāwhiti will be at the showgrounds to greet and welcome you through pōwhiri.

Stepping into the space you’ll be greeted with an intimate environment; boutique furniture and umbrellas beckoning you to sit, relax and be merry.  A retail space will be selling platters and locally made craft wares. There will even be spot prizes. 

And what’s a celebration without music? There will be DJ sets from locals Steve King and Campbell Ngata, as well as live music from the Lazy Fifty. These tunes are sure to have you muddling on the dance floor, if not happily poaching in your seat. A festival saturating you in good vibes.

This unique kaupapa of celebrating our region through kai is what we’ve all been waiting for. Surf and Turf made from venison, wild hare and paua? Yum, yes please.

Essence of Tairāwhiti will be opening its doors to your palate on the 27th of February, starting at 3pm sharp all the way to boogie town, 8pm. Go on, you should probably get that ticket.

Story by Jordan Walker

Photograph X Tink Lockett @uniquelytinkphotography

TRANSGENDER IN TAIRĀWHITI PT. 1

Hiking the stairs of the old post office building, to the 5th floor, I wondered how we once depended so much on this structure for our communications. Pushing through the weighted door led me to numbered offices. Office number 8 held inside of it the precise measurement of determination and tenderness to deliver an important, and sometimes stigmatised moment, becoming and being transgender. 

Laughter rattled through office number 8’s door. I paused for it to have its full course. When I knocked, a warm and resonating voice answered keenly “come in!” I entered to a room of 3 people, all wearing wide smiles. Tee Wells, Tink Lockett and Jase, “We’re celebrating” expressed Tee, filmmaker and owner/operator of Tairāwhiti TV. Tee is non-binary and prefers the pronouns, ‘they/them’. They handed around a bowl of lollipops – these genuine and nostalgic offerings that would lend insight into the reason for representation of this project. 

This kaupapa is Transgender in Tairāwhiti, the bones of a 4-part pilot of documentary shorts, representing four people as they express their experiences as trans people in Tairāwhiti. The documentary will consist of a 10-minute clip for each collaborator, with each of their experiences portrayed through videography and photography. 

Transgender in Tairāwhiti consists of 4 diverse collaborators: Gio, Lesley, Nganeko, and Jase. The first collaborator on the scene was Gio, a trans woman, Tongan and in her mid-twenties. Through connections of Gio came Lesley, also a trans woman, Pākehā and in her mid-sixties. Undeniably, Lesley’s experience stepping into their truer self in a 1950’s Gisborne is unfathomable. From up the coast came Nganeko, a trans woman, Māori and in her early twenties. Finally, and therefore the reason for sugary celebrations, was Jase, Pākehā, early twenties and the only trans man of this kaupapa. 

The mana in the room was pulsating, Tink Lockett, a renowned photographer of nude imagery expressed her deep desire for fairness, “we’re all the same with no clothes on”. I mistook what Tink’s nude imagery meant. Off the cusp, I thought that her intention for nude photography meant that she was looking for sex appeal. I was quite wrong. Tink wishes to change body imagery, proudly extending an ambition to desexualise how we see our bodies. 

There sits a bricolage of diversity within this kaupapa. As previously mentioned, these collaborators hold their own ‘identity markers’ within each of their kete. Tee is proudly Queer – we both spoke of our experiences existing as ‘lesbian’ at Gisborne Girls’ High School. Tee has travelled the world working within film, also working with Māori Television and TVNZ. They have also developed some life experience of Queerdom both in Aotearoa and overseas in Australia and Cambodia. It makes sense that a Queer, non-binary person speaks to and captures the experiences of these people trying to navigate their way through their trans journeys. But what of Tink? Well, it should comfort you in knowing that Tink profusely checks herself. She’s very open in knowing her privileges and her status. She reiterates to me, “I’m white, I’ve got blonde hair and I’m straight”, there is something intensely trustworthy in Tink’s transparency. 

The pair met a few months ago after working with Queer Vocal Loop Artist and Musician EJ Barrett from Taranaki.  When Tink found out that EJ was coming to town to film a music video, they tee’d up a time to do a quick nude-art photo shoot during *EJ’s visit.  It was the video project itself which piqued Tink’s interest to make contact with Tee.  Coffee and kōrero was shared at PBC, and the rest grew out of the 5th floor old post office building. Sitting now in this same office, I watch the two exchange the most fluid discussion; it unravels in front of me, and reveals this excitement of positive representation. I’m told of another collaborator, Chris Shotton, who identifies as gay and understanding the need for this type of work, donates his time to help Tee and Tink.

This project is nurtured in authenticity, with underlying values making up the very beams of this kaupapa. Of course, as is the case with most artistic endeavours, this documentary is being created off of the backs of these wonderful humans. The group wish to secure future funding to help tautoko the continuing movement of this kaupapa.

Here at Gizzy Local, we’re fortunate to be welcomed into this space as it evolves. Further to this, we’ve been invited to watch, listen and ask questions of these collaborators at a panel, soon to be announced.

* EJ does not hold any gender and prefers to be acknowledged by name only

Story by Jordan Walker
Images provided by Tink & Tee

If you’re keen to follow this journey of Transgender in Tairāwhiti, give Tairāwhiti TV a follow on Facebook and on Instagram.  More on Tink’s work can be found on her Facebook and Instagram pages.

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