During one of their buzziest weeks of the year, Auckland Pride co-directors Julia Croft and Hāmiora Bailey take a moment of pause. The artists explain the journey to Ki Tua Beyond Paradise, elaborate on collaborating with care and highlight the upcoming moments they’re most looking forward to.
Julia Croft and Hāmiora Bailey have been busy.
The Auckland Pride co-directors have been in and out of meetings, collecting care packages for festival artists and collaborating with partners, to ensure that 120 events (and multiple support initiatives) run smoothly, thoughtfully and joyfully in February.
“The job is really big,” says Julia.
But they’ve got each other to lean on.
Theatre-maker and performance artist Julia Croft (Pākehā) and visual artist, public artist and curator Hāmiora Bailey (Ngāti Porou Ki Harataunga, Ngāti Huarere) have been steering Auckland Pride together since late August. After squeezing a year’s worth of work into those few months, they are now on the precipice of delivering the major festival throughout Tāmaki Makaurau.
And this year, their job has involved shifting the dial while simultaneously delivering a supportive space to gather.
“I think it’s our job to enmesh our team and remind our community that we belong to the community and that Pride is not this effigy away from them — that we’re working with them and for them,” Hāmiora explains.
The pair have found a strong direction for their preparation and programming in their theme: Ki Tua Beyond Paradise.
Ki Tua arose during kōrero between the co-directors and creative director Nathan Joe.
“As a team of three artists trying to lead an organisation, we really wanted to ensure that the theme meant something and that it felt like it could be measured in a way — in the work and how artists engage with us as an organisation,” says Hāmiora.
As the co-director explains, the theme seeks to encourage action and world building, informed by relevant histories.
“Ki Tua Beyond Paradise is around looking at utopian thinking and optimism and how we can bring about better futures, but realising that Auckland Pride has a specific locality within Aotearoa. Here in Aotearoa, the past and the future collapse in a moment of time, because within te ao Māori whakapapa informs our future. So, Ki Tua meaning metaphysically beyond but chronologically before — Beyond Paradise.”
The pūrākau of Muri-ranga-whenua, Hāmiora explains, was a key reference point. In the pūrākau, the story of old, Maui attains a transformative taonga from a distant grandmother.
“It said that [Muri-ranga-whenua] lives at the furthest bounds of the Earth, and Maui, through a series of trials, obtains her jawbone — which becomes the fishhook, which fishes up Aotearoa. When we thought about us, as an organisation, as Auckland Pride, in a community, going out to discover new lands or new ideas or a new sense of utopia and paradise, we thought about when that had been done before in the stories that make us unique here in Aotearoa.”
Julia elaborates that “paradise” invites “ideas of rest and care and community”.
In conversations between the organisation leaders, there was also a realisation that “the concept of ‘paradise’ is problematic, or not without its problems, in Aotearoa in terms of how it interplays with our colonial history. As we started to unpick what paradise might mean through a te ao Māori lens, through a queer lens, we started thinking more and more back to look forward”.
The non-literal translation, Julia says, “invited whakapapa, invited us to look back to look forward, or look to our mothers, to our literal mothers, to our grandmothers, back and back and back, look beyond, to find the utopia that we want to strive towards”.
Through this backward gazing, the pair found a real anchor point in the Pacific Sisters. The influential collective of Pacific and Māori artists that first formed in 1992, is foregrounded as Auckland Pride’s 2024 senior artists. Julia says the “seminal” work of the group will serve as a “provocation” for those in attendance to respond to.
“They have defined a Pacific arts practice, feminist arts practice, collective arts practice ... It feels, if we’re talking about paradise and beyond and utopias, then we would centre women working collectively.”
The collective, at varying times, has included Lisa Reihana, Rosanna Raymond, Niwhai Tupaea, Ani O’Neill, Suzanne Tamaki, Ema Lyon, Selina Haami, Henry Ah-Foo Taripo, Feeonaa Clifton, Jaunnie ‘Ilolahia and Ruth Woodbury and Salvador Brown, among many others. Their talents are multi-disciplinary, ranging from (and challenging the categorisation of) fashion design, performance, music, visual art and more.
The work from the collective has — and continues to — advocate for Māori, Pasifika, and queer communities, while creating progressive spaces that are uplifting and deeply supportive.
“They’re just so painfully cool.”
Julia is ecstatic to have the collective in the spotlight.
“This group of women who are just doing things on their own terms, with this give-no-fecks kind of energy ... Seeing these older women who are successful and brilliant and original and pioneering and they’re still doing it. It is incredible and we feel really, really lucky that they’re working with us.”
Hāmiora agrees, citing Rosanna Raymond as a huge personal influence, and expressing gratitude for the access that Raymond grants to younger artists (including an open studio at Corban Estate Arts Centre).
“Her kindness and generosity for the arts, but also for young bloods, as she calls them, the next generation. It felt really organic and fitting with the pūrākau that we’re exploring and this idea of Ki Tua.”
The co-directors have found real influence from the Pacific Sisters for their own work at Auckland Pride, Hāmiora explains.
“We’re trying to figure out how we want to lead the organisation. The idea of access, the idea of passion, the idea of Moana-based knowledge systems, is really, really exciting for us.”
It’s the first year that Julia and Hāmiora are working in this co-leadership model and the two artists have a determined vision for what Auckland Pride, as an organisation, could platform and support.
One of the shifts they’re championing is a strong focus on Te Tīmatanga. As Hāmiora’s curatorial offering, Te Tīmatanga started three years ago as an arts and events festival led by rangatahi, based in te ao Māori. The festival aims to uplift and expand visions of Takatāpui Aotearoa and highlight dormant histories.
Julia says, “I believe, it was meant to be a one-day festival with Pride, that grew to a one-month festival with Pride.”
Hāmiora giggles with a joking apology for this display of determined excellence.
Tonight, Te Tīmatanga will launch Auckland Pride. 2023 senior artist Te Kahureremoa Taumata (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tuwharetoa) and resident artist Kiriana Sheree (Ngai Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi) will hand over to the Pacific Sisters and the 2024 resident artist Pounamu Rurawhe (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Raukawa Ki Te Tonga). The piece, according to the show’s description, will weave together dance, performance art, circus, kapa haka, taonga pūoro and ritual.
It’s a moment that will exemplify the interchanging of knowledge that Julia and Hāmiora are striving to facilitate throughout the whole month.
The co-directors are also seeking to “decentralise” Auckland Pride. They each want to shed an image of authority and emphasise that they are working in service of the community.
Hāmiora clarifies this through a simile.
“We kind of talk about it as a forest floor, where there are many nodes and different trees and we might have to trim back one shrub to let light hit somebody else, and just tending to this space as custodians, but not dictating it at all — just assessing the needs when we can.”
Julia agrees, highlighting a collaborative approach.
“It’s sort of passing the mic, in a way. What we have, the resource that we really have, is a platform and, sometimes, a bit of money. When I say decentralising, it’s how we resource artists, communities and service providers to tell us what they need, rather than us assuming that we know what’s best for any given artist or community within Tāmaki.”
And they’re almost ready to bask in the presence of the performers and attendees (following an enormous amount of work).
Julia says, “I think it’s going to be a really joyful time. The programme is really rich. I’m really proud of what we’ve put together as a team. Everyone has worked so hard, and to me, it looks really beautiful.”
Hāmiora is eager for this evening.
“The opening is phenomenal.”
Hāmiora points to Nā Te Ārai, Ko Māhū at Tautai Gallery as another highlight. The wharetoi in Karangahape Rd will be home to archival works from the Pacific Sisters and the responses they’ve inspired from other artists.
There’s also the march, led by Rainbow Youth, and the after-party, headlined by singer-songwriter Pati AF.
And there’s Nathan Joe’s curated Pride Elevates programme, focused on resourcing established and emerging performing artists to engage creatively with Ki Tua Beyond Paradise.
And there are the DJs, the club nights and the young artists, which Hāmiora finds a real energy in.
“It reminds me of the tenacity and the ferocity of queerness, that it doesn’t go anywhere.”
But also, Hāmiora says, there are the events where the co-directors have been less involved, that offer the opportunity to engage with a sense of surprise.
“I’m really excited to go to shows that are outside of my frame of mind and my positionality within the world and learn from our open-access artists ... I get to just be me, in an audience, laughing with my friends and vibing.”
So, so much to be excited about.
“I’m excited to answer the theme, I’m excited for the artists that we’re in deep relationships with to answer the theme. And to look at it and feel that sense of cohesion and dialogue, that the month is trying to say something, we’re trying to question something and investigate something and I’m excited to learn as an audience member from each of our artists, and how they too are asking that same question.”
Julia listens to every point of Hāmiora’s excitement. When pressed for personal picks, she simply nods.
“Yes. Everything Hāmi just said.”
Auckland Pride: Ki Tua Beyond Paradise begins tonight at the Civic Wintergarden with Te Tīmatanga. The festival will close on February 29.