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Source: Auckland Council

Auckland Arts Festival/Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki (AAF) 2021 features everything from dance to theatre, live music to comedy, visual and digital art, talks and debate, community participation projects and more, with a wide-ranging series of free and ticketed shows, installations and exhibitions designed to unify, uplift and inspire.

The Festival has commissioned world premieres of several new works, resuscitated some that were cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will provide employment for over 1,000 artists and 150 production and administration staff.

All 2021 activity falls into three strands related to the overarching theme of Aroha: aroha ki ngā kōrero – the respect we hold for our stories; aroha ki te tangata – kindness, compassion and goodwill toward people; and aroha ki te taiao – our love and care for our natural environment – air, land and water.

In support of the Festival’s ‘access for all’ kaupapa, the programme features more free activities than ever before, including events on International Women’s Day and New Zealand Children’s Day. The Aroha Art Project will be an opportunity for all members of the public to contribute to a collaborative artwork in the Festival Garden in Aotea Square.

In 2021 the AAF’s Toitū Te Reo programme is integrated into all aspects of the Festival, ensuring that te reo Māori is seen and heard every day. Featured events include the Festival opening ceremony Te Tīmatanga; kapa haka extravaganza Pūmanawa; and the moving poetry of Maya Angelou translated into te reo, delivered by a host of language warrior women from across Aotearoa in Wāhine Toikupu.

The Civic Club is a brand new concept for the Festival that will see audiences seated onstage at much-loved Auckland landmark and entertainment venue The Civic, enjoying intimate, limited capacity performances. The Club line-up will feature a collection of New Zealand’s top music acts, including Reb Fountain, Dixon Nacey, Delaney Davidson with Shayne Carter – and Hine!, a showcase of four breakthrough wāhine toa performers led by Betty-Anne Monga of Ardijah fame. Hubbing it all is The Tom Sainsbury Love Hour, a comedy talk show with a star-studded array of celebrity guests including Hilary Barry and Chlöe Swarbrick discussing their best break-ups, make-ups and obsessions. The Club will also host Heavenly Bodies, a dazzling cabaret which sees a constellation of New Zealand’s finest circus superstars, urban acrobats and outrageous curiosities descend from The Civic’s glittering rafters.

Other Festival highlights include the 20th anniversary celebration of Che-Fu’s seminal album Navigator, which the artist will perform at an all-ages show at Auckland Town Hall with his band The Kratez, headlining the Festival’s Polynesian Panthers 50th Anniversary programming. The Panthers were an activist group known in particular for their protests against the notorious dawn raids of the 1970s, and 2021 marks 50 years since their formation. AAF will feature exhibitions, talks, play readings and the creation of a mural honouring the Panthers’ legacy, as well as a performance in the Festival Garden by Che-Fu’s father, Panthers activist and reggae musician Tigilau Ness, with special guests.

True to form, AAF 2021 offers a plethora of engaging and brilliant theatre, music and dance performances. Taku Tau Kahurangi: An Aotearoa Love Story is a collection of classic New Zealand love songs, performed by the stunning Ria Hall; Strasbourg 1518 is a powerful tribute to the dancing plague of 1518, directed and choreographed by Lucy Marinkovich, composed by Lucien Johnson and featuring Michael Parmenter; from the creators of The Factory, Vela Manusaute’s Tropical Love Birds premieres, bringing the tortured love tussle between electrifying beast of a league star Sani and his island queen Sheena to life; The Artist calls international circus sensation Thomas Monckton back from abroad to share his latest masterpiece with a home crowd; and Jack and the Beanstalk is a hilarious romp through this classic tale with a kiwi twist, written, directed and starring the legendary thespian Michael Hurst.

Six of the finest pianists from Aotearoa, including Michael Houston, will grace the stage – with six grand pianos – at the Auckland Town Hall to bring renowned composer John Psathas’ immersive world premiere of Voices at the End to life. The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra celebrates International Women’s Day with a selection of women composers in Shoulder to Shoulder; and BalletCollective Aotearoa premiere their company in an exciting new chapter in contemporary ballet with a trio of new work titled Subtle Dances, featuring NZTrio playing live. For a special treat on the big screen, we present the Australasian premiere of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in Concert, complete with John Williams’ Academy Award®-winning score performed live by the APO.

These are just some of the 70+ live performances and events that comprise Auckland Arts Festival/Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki 2021.

MIL OSI