Ngā Toi Advocacy Hui - Te Taumata Toi-a-Iwi

Ngā Toi Advocacy Network
Hui Notes 2021


The Ngā Toi Advocacy Network’s hui are an opportunity for people in Tāmaki Makaurau’s ngā toi / arts and culture sector to meet bi-monthly, engage with thought leaders in the sector, and identify opportunities for advocacy action. During 2021, the network has provided platforms for provocation for inspiring speakers such as Rosabel Tan, Shona McElroy, Eynon Delamere, Nigel Borell, Ema Tavola, Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho, Rose Hiha-Agnew and Huia O’Sullivan. They opened conversations on issues such as decolonising thinking and practice in ngā toi spaces, and new forms of governance. 

Each hui, facilitated by Eynon Delamere, Chantelle Whaiapu, Kylie Sealy and Jane Yonge, opens with a karakia and whakawhanaungatanga. The kaupapa and speaker is then introduced. Following the kōrero, the hui is opened up for updates and discussions on advocacy needs, actions and opportunities.

This is a brief overview of the primary focus of each of the hui of 2021.

‘The Art of the possible'

Speaker: Cat Ruka and Jessica Palalagi

Cat and Jessica shared their whakaaro, as disruptors and innovators in the arts, on ‘The Art of the Possible’, the current landscape of the arts sector, and their visions for the future. Key points from their kōrero included:

  • Artists are tired, and in need of inspiration and support.
  • There is relationality work that needs to be done to reshape what the Art of the Possible means in an uncertain time, in a digital time, when tangata o te Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa rely so heavily on connection in a physical space…
    Cat: “I always try and remain conscious of the power that exists in having a role like the one that I have, and to remember that, that I have a responsibility connected to that power to make sure that I’m clearing pathways for other people to be in these rooms in these spaces. There’s power to these roles that I also have a responsibility to other people to bring them along. It’s that relationality work, that stuff that we that we learn as aunties, and mothers; we’re never alone, there’s always a village and a family to take with us.”
  • We hold responsibility as people in positions of power to bring them along with us; speak people’s names into rooms they should be in.
    Cat: “There’s a part of me that always gets really excited when we go into lockdown, to be honest. Because it presents an opportunity for the systems that are in place to soften, to crumble, to be questioned to be critiqued…”
  • Lockdown is an opportunity for reimagining and renewal of broken systems. Things are softening and therefore open to criticism. This is a moment to reflect on time as a construct; you can stop, or keep going or shift the paradigmIn the advocacy space, it is common to fall into the trap of wanting to save people and wanting to be other people’s saviours. This can lead to burnout, so instead it is best to act as someone to advise, not problem-solve, and set up a space that is safe to criticise and experiment.
    Jessica: “When I’m in spaces where I’m trying to amplify, I feel like, I’m really careful about the space that I’m taking up, and also careful of the words that we’re using to create this safety, this cultural safety. In my other mahi, I think it’s the power of people describing themselves, you know, so for those of us who have been ascribed for so long; you’re this, you’re that. It’s like, how do we start? How do we make sure that I create space for their agency?”
  • This period of uncertainty demands flexibility, which Moana Oceania artists are culturally made for, as people who are navigators in all things; DNA wired to pivot, innovate, reframe.
    Jessica: “…being able to innovate and change and flex and adapt is like the ebb and flow of the moana, you know, so the waves are individual, but the moana is one. I think it’s about how we can continue to adapt, but also the long game, in terms of thinking about intergenerational change and how we can exist in so many facets, but also know that we belong to so much.”

‘Nurturing Hauora & Wellbeing: We can be in control of when we stop’

Speaker: Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho

Key points from Borni’s kōrero include:

Mana Motuhake, Tino Rangatiratanga, Self-Autonomy: self-care is not selfish. Leaders and members of the arts community need to prioritise themselves to offer stronger mahi. We need to reframe the whakaaro around self-care.

  • The meaning of hauora; hau = vitality, ora = life. The way we can make our lives full of vitality is by being a part of a community that can support you, as well as being able to seek that support for yourself. Addressing hauora in the arts sector requires kindness and understanding; the arts often see mental health as a barrier for work, or from a deficit space, rather than an opportunity to stop, breathe, and be grounded.
  • Te ao Māori is a valuable framework to guide support for artists in mental health. Systemic colonisation is a barrier to meaningful networks of support.
  • We can share resources that enable the network to find time to settle as individuals and as organisations by creating hubs of knowledge for hauora, as well as contributing to a live document that contains these resources.
  • Huia O’Sullivan shared a quick and effective tool to check in with the people in your organization on a deep level, based around four questions: “what you’ve done to look after yourself?", “something you’re grateful for", “the world looks better when…" and “today I will…"
  • There needs to be action in these spaces of wellness and hauora, especially for those who are not being heard e.g., grassroots organisations, vulnerable whānau, etc. There is an urgency to close the gap between independent artists and organisations, especially during Covid. What responsibility do organisations have for the artists they engage with?

Highlights of Borni’s kōrero can be read here.

Hauora and wellbeing resources from the Network can be found here.

Future Models of Governance – Why Our Nannies Set the KPIs

Speakers: Huia O’Sullivan & Rose Hiha-Agnew

Huia and Rose shared their experiences and thoughts on future models of governance, particularly in relation to rangatahi, wāhine, nannies, and healthy models of governance. Key points from the kōrero included:

  • Burn out happens, particularly for wāhine and wāhine Māori. Support networks are important to get people through tough times and to ensure that the wairua stays intact.
  • For Rose and Huia, they see themselves as accountable first and foremost to their nannies and their kuia. These wāhine bring with them their mana, aroha, and wisdom to inform practice and bring it back to the kaupapa.
  • Consensus through collective: current governance structures privilege having an individual voice over collective decision making. This can cause tension in current systems of governance.
  • If a board invites someone who is Māori to sit on that board, it needs to be understand that this person does not represent all of Māori or all of iwi. Their context and where they come from needs to be understood.
  • Calling out and courageous conversations can come at an individual risk, but it might be a risk worth taking if it shifts the collective kaupapa in the right direction.
  • For boards: ensure there are transparent, safe processes in place.
  • Trust that rangatahi have what it takes to sit on boards. Advisory boards can either be steppingstones or holding pens. Advisory panels should be a complement to what already exists in the governance space. It is about sharing the power.

Highlights of Huia’s and Rose’s kōrero can be read here.

What next for innovation in arts and culture in Aotearoa?

Speakers: Shona McElroy, Ema Tavola & Nigel Borell

The kaupapa for this hui, hosted by Te Pou Theatre, was to consider ‘what next for innovation in arts and culture in Aotearoa?’  The kōrero began with an introduction from Shona to The Future Emerging: Innovation in Arts and Culture in Aotearoa’ think pieces published by Te Taumata Toi-a-Iwi.  The issues identified in these articles were to be used later in the hui as a springboard for participants to discuss where they have seen innovation work well, the conditions that foster innovation, the barriers to innovation, mātauranga Māori, and the wisdom that te ao Māori could bring to a conversation around innovation.

Artist-curators Ema Tavola and Nigel Borell then spoke about their experiences of innovation.

“Innovation – you can come from it from so many angles. One of the angles that, for me, and for Māori, I think often comes from innovation from the point of adversity and challenge. That can be a beautiful platform to prompt innovative movements and responses. COVID has been sort of a bit of that for everybody in different ways and thinking through where to next, and how to make the best out of the situation.” Nigel Borell

“As tauiwi, as people of the Pacific, like Nigel says, if things aren’t being done well for Māori then we have nothing. We are absolutely standing in the shadow of the indigenous people here. The measure, the gauge of innovation in this country is how much I believe Māori are leading that conversation.” Ema Tavola

Highlights of Ema’s and Nigel’s kōrero can be read here.

Participant discussions

Participants broke into small groups, each focusing on one of the following questions:

  • What is innovation to us and how do we recognise it in our context? (Re)defining it for arts and culture in Aotearoa.
  • What is our dream of a sector where innovation is thriving, and we thrive through innovation?
  • How might we action system change?

Key points that emerged from the group discussions included:


  • Give permission to play as practitioners, with new values, models and systems. Then tell the story of this.
  • Guiding processes not controlling. Allowing it to be messy. Overlapping.
  • Innovation in governance. How do we socialise and influence change in governance? Change the membership of the privileged?
  • Invest in Māori and Pasifika to bring people through Co-leadership models, working in partnership.

Systems Change

  • A shared voice for our sector.
  • Continued advocacy on the value of the arts and culture sector.
  • Change the prescribed outcomes and success measures.

The Future Emerging: Innovation in Arts and Culture in Aotearoa

Speakers: Shona McElroy & Eynon Delamere

Shona and Eynon, in collaboration with Chantelle Whaiapu and Jane Yonge, wrote a series of think pieces for Te Taumata-Toi-a-Iwi around the theme; The Future Emerging: Innovation in Arts and Culture in Aotearoa. For this hui, Shona and Eynon talked about the framing of the work, and the insights that emerged.

The motivation for the work was to identify where our arts and culture sector stands now, what kind of future we want to create, and how innovation can help us move forward. The intention was to draw on both mātauranga Māori and Western knowledge to think about innovation differently. In the first of the series the provocation was ‘what would it look like if we genuinely tried to rethink and reframe how we look at innovation’.

“From my perspective, innovation has now become a label that we use when we try something new. With the Ministry announcing the Innovation Fund, it got us thinking that if you fund innovation, you have to be ready for things not to come to fruition. That’s what innovation is all about in my mind. Over the last six or seven years, there has been a focus on looking at innovative ways of seeing the world and trying to match indigenous knowledge with scientific knowledge to come up with possible solutions for a number of issues. People like Rereata Makiha (one of the leading innovators from a Māori perspective), who uses the maramataka to link in te taio (the environment) to whatever he is talking about.”  Eynon Delamere

“Slack in the system is one of the most important things for innovation to occur over the long term. How do we create space in how we live and work to allow deep thinking, connecting, creating, mental overheads, time to learn, connect, explore, to allow creative people to create innovation?” Shona McElroy

We can build a new utopia

Speaker: Rosabel Tan

Rosabel shared the whakapapa of a think piece ‘We can build a new utopia – Reimagining the post-Covid ngā toi arts and culture sector in Aotearoa’. Commissioned by Te Taumata Toi-a-Iwi; this was a reflection of Rosabel’s conversations with colleagues about the survival of the sector in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the leveraging of this challenge to address some of the big questions about the world views the arts sector is built on.

Questions raised by Rosabel at the hui included: how we centre a Māori world view in the way we approach the arts sector; how we layer in all the other world views and knowledges that make up our country; asking who is on your board or in your office, whose voices are you amplifying, and whose you hold in your heart when making decisions; who we are making art for; why our society is comfortable with artists living in poverty; and how do we change the metrics on how we value art, from looking at ‘the numbers’ to focusing on the impact and depth of the work.