Britomart’s focus on social sustainability includes a programme of events that run in Takutai Square and elsewhere in the precinct throughout the year. All of these events are designed to build connection with Britomart’s unique sense of place, its history and that of the city around it. This post details some of our highlights.
Matariki at Britomart
One of the highlights of the year’s calendar is Britomart’s Matariki celebrations, which form a cornerstone of the city-wide Matariki Festival.
This year, hāngi master Rewi Spraggon fired up his hāngi pit in Takutai Square at dawn each day for a week, serving steam-cooked kai for hundreds of lunchtime passersby. This is the third year that Rewi has cooked and served hāngi in Takutai Square for Matariki. In lockdown this year, Britomart was also proud to support Rewi in Auckland's 2021 lockdown when he worked for weeks to supply hāngi to people in need. You can read about his efforts at this link.
As well as that spectacle, Takutai Square hosted kapa haka performances every day during the first week of Matariki, with performers from Te Wehi Haka (they're pictured in the photo above by David St George), Te Wharekura o Hoani Waititi Marae and Te Rōpū Manutaki entertaining the lunchtime crowds.
The first week of Matariki also featured a roster of up-and-coming Māori musical performers, including Jhasmyne-Leigh Laomahei, Makaira Berry, HINA and RnR Music, culminating in a big Friday evening concert, Te Korakora on Takutai, headlined by performers Ria Hall and Mara TK.
Matariki this year was also marked by a new installation of artworks by Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho, who created personifications of each of the nine stars in the Matariki constellation, powerful faces positioned on Customs Street and Te Ara Tahuhu to remind visitors of the narratives that underpin the Māori New Year. "Creating these illustrations was a really great opportunity to educate the wider public on the importance of Matariki in a highly public forum," Huriana says.
Each year in Takutai Square, Britomart celebrates Christmas by giving away thousands of native seedlings from the nursery at The Landing, the 1000-acre Bay of Islands property that, like Britomart, is under the stewardship of Cooper and Company. The Green Christmas project (because of lockdown, the Christmas 2021 giveaway is being postponed until Wednesday 27-Friday 29 April to celebrate Arbor Day on the Friday) gives people the chance to plant their own seedlings at home, or give the gift of greenery to others. It also raises money for reforestation charities including the Motutapu Restoration Trust and the Native Forest Restoration Trust.
Caleb Scott runs the nursery at The Landing and cultivates trees through the year for this Christmas giveaway. He also comes to Britomart to dispense expertise, advising many hundreds of would-be aborists on strategies for selecting and planting native trees. Needless to say, he understands the cyclical transformation that reforestation can achieve. "When you start regenerating the bush, everything increases," he tells Melinda Williams in this interview. "The trees drop their leaves and you create a nice humus layer, which means that you have more invertebrates and worms, so there’s more food for the birds who live on the ground." At The Landing, those birds include an ever-growing population of local kiwi who forage for food among the forest and regenerating wetlands.
The Green Christmas event is a way of encouraging people to actively consider and contribute to the benefits of reforestation with native trees, and also to think about the consumerist Christmas season as an opportunity to give sustainable gifts.
The trees are technically given away, but we encourage gold-coin donations from the people who queue up to take them home so we can pass these donations on. In the past two years, donations at the giveaway have totalled over $14,000, which have been passed on in full to the Native Forest Restoration Trust in 2019 and the Motutapu Restoration Trust in 2020.
Toi Tū Toi Ora Contemporary Māori Art at Britomart
Last year our partnership with Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki created a satellite exhibition of the landmark show of contemporary Māori art, Toi Tū Toi Ora. Working with curator Nigel Borell, the Britomart Arts Foundation commissioned four artists to create works for the satellite exhibition: Lyonel Grant, Charlotte Graham, Lonnie Hutchinson and Shane Cotton.
Three of those works are permanent, imprinting Māori narratives and the memory of the exhibition on Britomart’s outdoor spaces. Shane Cotton (Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Hine, Te Uri Taniwha) created Maunga, a five-storey-high mural on the western side of the heritage Excelsior Stanbeth Building, one of the largest pieces of public art in the city. In Takutai Square, Lyonel Grant (Ngāti Pikia, Te Arawa) collaborated with Tim Gruchy, the creator of the digital artwork SCOUT (2012) to create Scout: Wawata Hōhonu, a constant stream of AI-generated imagery using Lyonel’s carvings as foundational material.
Lonnie Hutchinson (Kai Tahu, Ngāti Kuri ki Kai Tahu, Samoan), created two sets of intricately patterned folded aluminium panels to retell the Kai Tahu creation story and highlight its three protagonists. And Charlotte Graham (Pare Waikato, Pare Hauraki), made a temporary installation of a series of flags and banners named Te Hau Whakaora, which brought the healing energies of the winds and water to Britomart.
The exhibition was a vibrant addition to Auckland Art Gallery’s flagship exhibition, showing how art can enliven the centre of the city. "To have a large artwork such as Shane Cotton’s Maunga on the side of a building declaring itself the way that it does is an amazing contribution to what people are experiencing in these public spaces," says curator Nigel Borell in this interview that was part of our Seven Plans for a Better Planet series. "Whether it makes them pause or see our built landscape differently, these reactions will have profound implications. They become markers in people’s experiences of space and the city."