Arts aficionados, dance lovers and fashionistas will be spoiled for choice at what is being described as one of the most exciting events on the Auckland arts calendar.
The Southside Arts Festival starts on Thursday at venues around Auckland, showcasing some of the best Maori and Pasifika talent with a distinctly Manukau flavour.
The festival, previously known as the Manukau Festival of Arts, encompasses theatre, music, dance, fashion, street and visual arts and the written word, with a line-up of more than 20 events and performances - all celebrating the creative talents that have emerged from Manukau.
International guests, accomplished South Auckland artists and emerging and established Maori and Pacific artists will show off their work over the next three weeks.
The acts include Ladi6, internationally renowned baritone Eddie Muliau'maseali'i, Okareka Dance Company, Iva Lamkum, Mara TK, New York-based Lorene Taurerewa and members of the three-time world hip-hop dance champions, The Royal Family.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown, formerly Mayor of Manukau, said the city's long-term plan committed it to making arts and culture a part of Aucklanders' everyday lives.
He said the festival was one of the most exciting events on Auckland's arts calendar.
Auckland Council's senior programme leader for arts and culture, James Pinker, said the vibrant and diverse South Auckland arts scene was "absolutely going gangbusters".
He said this year's festival would reach a broader base of people with some of its events taking place outside of Manukau City - at the Auckland Museum, the Auckland Art Gallery and the Pah Homestead.
People living in the CBD are also invited to take part in the Southern Gallery Express Art Tour, a free cultural jaunt that departs from Karangahape Rd and explores visual arts exhibitions in South Auckland's creative hotspots every Saturday during the festival.
"We look at it as showing the rest of Auckland the brilliance of South Auckland and to demonstrate that Auckland is one city now," said Mr Pinker.
"The kaupapa [idea] grew from a Manukau City Council initiative and some of the more vibrant work needs to be seen across the city, but it's still South Auckland-centric, without a doubt."
"The Southside gig will be absolutely brilliant - a great selection. I think the Cult Couture will be fantastic, and for people who aren't exposed to orchestral music, the Manukau Symphony Orchestra's We are Pasifika will be a personal highlight of mine."
More than half of this year's festival, which ends on November 3, is free for people to attend.
Festival a showcase of talent: Festival Highlights
At Vodafone Events Centre
October 25: The Mixer is a one-night-only gig by some of the very best Polynesian musical talent. The 2013 Mixer's theme is Old Skool, with all musicians, including R&B songstress Ria, contemporary rapper/composer Anonymouz, bands Three Houses Down and Sons of Zion, and Dei Hamo with DJ Al Goodie all performing.
October 26: The Southside Gig Includes a workshop by the ReQuest Dance Crew; and a Graf-Art competition judged by Canada's Kaput and hosted by Aotearoa's Bobby Hung. BGirl Bonita from The Rock Steady Crew, New York hip-hop pioneers, will oversee a series of workshops, performances and battles featuring some of the finest Bboys and Bgirls from around Aotearoa. Ends with a free concert headlined by Ladi6 with support from underground hip-hoppers Raiza Biza and Team Dynamite.
November 2: Cult Couture is a large-scale avant-garde fashion showcase with a Pacific twist featuring some of the country's best emerging fashion designers who compete for a $12,000 prize pool to support their fashion careers.
The Southern Gallery Express Art Tour is a free cultural jaunt taking place every Saturday in the Festival. Ticket holders board the bus in K' Rd and explore visual arts exhibitions in South Auckland's creative hotspots. Each tour will be hosted by artist-performers, including the brilliant South Auckland Poets' Collective.
Theatre productions include the Mangere Arts Centre season of Auckland Theatre Company's Niu Sila by Oscar Kightley and Dave Armstrong, and The First Asian AB, directed by Renee Liang and performed by Ben Teh and Paul Fagamalo.
The music programme includes a large-scale Manukau Symphony Orchestra concert, We Are Pasifika, featuring sopranos Daphne Collins and Rejieli Paulo and international baritone Eddie Muliau'maseali'i and conducted by Opeloge Ah Sam. There's also a children's concert by the award-winning Manukau Concert Band.
Visual arts highlights include Secret Walls x Aotearoa, New Zealand's version of the Secret Walls live art battles that originated in London.
Dance works feature Where is Home? by Okareka Dance Company, Home, Land and Sea by LIMA Dance Theatre, as well as a Pacific Dance ChoreoLab showing.
There is also The Best of Pollywood, a screening of short films by Pacific film-makers, at the Auckland Art Gallery, curated by Craig Fasi.