Tucked away in Tatjana Hanne’s bedroom in Stratford is an old set of handmade butterfly wings. Orange ribbons float from the bottom of the whimsical accessory, with pops of bright blue fabric drawing the eye to the edges of the wingspan.
The wings have become far too small for her and the once dazzling glitter has worn to a soft glint, but this treasure will be kept forever. She was 7 when she made them with her mum, dancing around a table in Kidzone at Womad while the sounds of the world rang out around them.
Now 15, she still remembers how magical they made her feel, and how much joy she felt when she ran around the festival in them.
“One of the biggest memories I have from when I was a kid is making these butterfly wings with my mum at Womad. We had so much fun. I wore them for the whole day, and then I brought them back the next day,” she says.
“I’ve got so many positive memories from being at Womad as a kid. My mum and I even got to go backstage with Speech from Arrested Development.”
Speech was her mum’s favourite musician when she was younger, so that was just really, really cool, Tatjana says.
“Womad has been such a big part of my childhood. It’s this amazing place where you get to dress up and have fun and just be the chaotic little kids you want to be.”
This March, after more than a decade of attending as a festival-goer, Tatjana will be volunteering at the award-winning festival. She’s working in Kidzone and wants to help young Womaders create memories that are just as wonderful as hers. She sees volunteering as a way to give back, and also a way to pay forward the gift Kidzone volunteers gave her as a child.
Talking with Tatjana is a gift in itself. The Stratford teenager is passionate about the world, about the people in it, and about the importance of diversity. She speaks with an enthusiasm and depth of understanding that is a brilliant reminder of just how attuned our young people are. When she sits down for this interview she’s on exam leave from Taranaki Diocesan School for Girls, and has fitted this in between study sessions and extra tutorials.
She’s used to being busy, she says. She’s on the Stratford Youth Council, she’s a dancer, she teaches ballet to children, she’s an air force cadet, and she’s just finished competing in the speech finals at school. Oh, and performing in her school’s production of Annie Jr.
Tatjana moved to Taranaki when she was 4 and has been to every Womad since, many of them for free as a part of the festival offering each adult with a ticket the option to bring a child 12-and-under with them for no cost.
Over those years Tatjana has not only met some of her parents’ favourite artists, made beautiful creations in Kidzone, and found the best samosas she’s ever had, she’s also soaked up diverse culture, music and art from across the globe.
“You see so many different people, from so many different cultures and so many different backgrounds, and that’s been really important for me. My family has a diverse background, so being at Womad reminds me a lot of our heritage. It’s a powerful experience.”
It’s interesting to hear from someone who has childhood memories of Womad. Many were adults when they first experienced the festival, but for Tatjana it’s been a part of her life for as long as she can remember, bringing years of excitement and learning with it.
Womad’s cooking sessions have been one of those learning experiences. Tatjana and her two brothers, Achim and Thiemo, don’t eat meat, so she makes sure she checks out the Taranaki Offshore Partnership Taste the World stage every year, as many of the international dishes are vegetarian.
Nestled in the Kunming Garden and wafting tantalising smells over its audiences, the Taranaki Offshore Partnership Taste the World stage is a popular spot at Womad. Artists from around the globe create their favourite dishes, while mixing in storytelling, adding in a pinch of spontaneous live music, and sharing tasty morsels with the audience.
For Taranaki Offshore Partnership’s Giacomo Caleffi, Taste the World is a delectable way to spend some downtime between music acts. Last year he soaked up the talents of Korean pop group ADG7 as they delivered a cooking lesson blended with insights about their traditional instruments.
While Taranaki Offshore Partnership are now in their second year of being a Womad partner, Giacomo’s first taste of the festival was a few years beforehand. As a musician himself, he was keen to experience the good vibes of Womad, and even camped in the on-site campground for the weekend.
“Womad is an inspiring festival in so many ways. The musicians are top-notch, everyone is very friendly, and there is a lot of happiness,” Giacomo says.
Every year around 500 volunteers are among the army of people who make Womad a great experience for festival goers like Giacomo and Tatjana. For Whitney Wilson those volunteers are a crucial part of what makes the event a success. As the artist liaison manager and former volunteer coordinator, Whitney knows the power of lending a helping hand at Womad. After all, she started as a volunteer herself.
She says volunteers come from across Aotearoa and the team is made up of all sorts of people, from all sorts of backgrounds. Together they become technical assistants, artist minders, retail assistants, hospitality helpers, site builders, Zero Waste superstars, and Kidzone magic makers.
“Every year we have hundreds of returning volunteers, some who are now bringing second generation volunteers with them. They do this because they love the festival, they love the experience, and they love meeting new people,” Whitney says.
As well as being a rewarding experience, the volunteer programme makes the festival more accessible. Volunteers work for around half of the festival and get the other half to soak up the sounds, enjoy the atmosphere, and discover the magic of Womad. Volunteer applications are currently open on the Womad website and Tatjana believes everyone should give it a go.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
What: WOMAD NZ 2024
When: Friday, March 15 to Sunday, March 17
Where: Brooklands Park and the TSB Bowl of Brooklands in Ngāmotu / New Plymouth.
More info: Tickets are on sale now from www.womad.co.nz