In response to alarming signs of racism, 16 Waikato artists have been selected to share their voice through art and spark crucial conversations about unity.

To champion the cause, Creative Waikato - backed by the Waikato Community Funders Group - instigated a campaign called Kotahitanga through Creativity which asks artists from the region to create commissioned works across a variety of art forms.

Creative Waikato chief executive Jeremy Mayall believes recent events across the globe have further demonstrated the urgency for action.

"We're speaking up against racism through the most powerful language we know – art," says Mayall.

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"The new collection of works being produced through this campaign will speak to the importance of kotahitanga.

Flatten the curve on racism: Jeremy Mayall, the Creative Waikato chief executive, believes an arts-led response will powerfully combat racism. Photo / Chris Hillock
Flatten the curve on racism: Jeremy Mayall, the Creative Waikato chief executive, believes an arts-led response will powerfully combat racism. Photo / Chris Hillock

Realising the possibility art has to span cultures, Mayall says, "Our hope is that the sheer variety of works across multiple art forms will mean a great diversity of people within the Waikato and beyond will engage with this message.

"We need people to do their bit to embrace a new love and understanding of all cultures so we can flatten the curve on racism too."

Mayall says the selection panel were encouraged to see so many high-quality proposals for artworks.

"When we instigated the project by launching the initial call for proposals, we were responding to isolated incidents of racism being experienced around the region in the wake of Covid-19.

"Now, we realise this kaupapa stretches far beyond this," says Mayall.

From an open submission process, a total of 16 artists were selected to create eight commissioned works to be shared across the wider Waikato community.

Artists include Simon Te Wheoro (Raglan) who will create a takaka marble sculpture, Sybille Schlumbom (Hamilton) who will create a Japanese woodblock print (mokuhunga), and poet Vaughen Rapatahana (Morrinsville) who will create an anthology of poems alongside nine other local poets.

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Other selected artists are Alice Alva, Dawn Tuffery, Lucie Blazevska, Robin Ranga and Stephanie Christie, who are working on pieces in digital, animation, clay, and literary spheres.

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The selection of works will be hosted in an online gallery launching Tuesday June 30.

"It's exciting to anticipate how creativity can rebuild our communities into resilient, diverse, and beautiful places for all people to thrive," says Mayall.

The Waikato Community Funders Group takes a collaborative approach to funding opportunities across the Waikato and includes the Brian Perry Foundation, Braemar Charitable Trust, the Department of Internal Affairs, DV Bryant Trust, Gallagher Foundation, Len Reynolds Trust, Momentum Waikato, Trust Waikato, WEL Energy Trust, Hamilton City Council and Waikato Regional Council.

The selected artists and the art forms of commissioned pieces are:
• Alice Alva (Hamilton), print and digital posters
• Dawn Tuffery (Hamilton), animated video interviews
• Lucie Blazevska (Raglan), digital abstract portraits
• Robin Ranga (Ngāti Mahuta, Port Waikato), clay sculpture
• Simon Te Wheoro (Raglan), takaka marble sculpture
• Stephanie Christie (Hamilton), visual art piece and reflection
• Sybille Schlumbom (Hamilton), Japanese woodblock print (mokuhanga)
• Vaughan Rapatahana (Morrinsville), poetry collection in collaboration with 9 other artists.