Alex-Ann Edwards was recently appointed as a cultural activator for the Wairoa District.
The Cultural Activator Pilot is a one-year initiative within the Arts and Culture Covid Recovery Programme established by Mangatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage.
The pilot is aimed at funding cultural sector practitioners to collaborate with communities to tell their stories, build their creative skills and connect them with opportunities in the wider cultural sector.
Wairoa was one of eight pilot communities targeted nationally by the ministry for this resource. Wairoa Taiwhenua was the successful applicant to host this role.
Their application was specific to supporting existing cultural and artistic events and communities in the Wairoa District, with the scope of building further capacity and relationships.
"This opportunity was a natural fit for Wairoa Taiwhenua. Our charity has served our community for over 30 years and has a strong focus on supporting local arts and culture. With this resource available from the ministry, our board fully supported securing it to continue this work," says Nigel How, Wairoa Taiwhenua chairman.
Wairoa Taiwhenua received six very strong applications who went through a robust interview process to help the panel select the successful candidate.
"We are fortunate to have Alex-Ann in this role," says Nigel.
"Her professional experience, combined with her local roots and commitment is an excellent fit overall. Wairoa Taiwhenua is delighted with her appointment and is committed to supporting her in this role over the next year," he said.
After leaving school in Wairoa, Alex went on to work for a local kohanga reo and continued her study of the Māori language through Te Ataarangi led by Māori language expert, inspirational leader and humble mentor Whaea Liz Hunkin.
Alex-Ann went on to be a teacher of the reo while simultaneously studying toward her Bachelor of Mātauranga Māori through EIT Hawke's Bay.
She went to work for Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated for several years as the research analyst – te reo, tikanga Māori and pouārahi reo.
Much of the research that Alex-Ann did while with the iwi continues to inspire iwi members, her students and those she worked with. She left the iwi to pursue an opportunity overseas where she was able to continue her love for reo and indigenous mahi among the people of Hawaii.
Her return home in 2020 continues to be inspiring as she has always desired to work for her whānau in Wairoa.
"I am grateful to the Wairoa Taiwhenua for providing this opportunity after working and living away from home for 15 years. It's exciting to finally return to share my skills and experiences within the community," says Alex-Ann.
"Wairoa is a community that is rich in culture and our ability to create cultural experiences that are unique to Wairoa is nationally recognised and I'm excited that a priority of this position is to ensure we offer more unique cultural experiences like the biennual Pā Haka to our community."
Over the coming months, she plans to venture out into the community to connect, open dialogue and offer to work alongside established and new artists and groups, researching the need of a mentoring platform for upcoming artists and support local events and projects.
"I'm based at the Wairoa Taiwhenua office, nau mai, haere mai."