Director’s cut: What Mere Boynton is excited about this Festival

Mere Boynton (Te Aitanga a Mahāki, Ngāti Oneone, and Ngāi Tūhoe) says being Director Ngā Toi Māori for the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts (ANZFA) is her dream job. “I get to eat, drink, breathe, and sleep art.”

Director Ngā Toi Māori for the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts, Mere Boynton, wearing a brown coat and purple scarf, standing and smiling at the Wellington waterfront.

Held every two years since 1986, ANZFA celebrates creativity in all its forms. With a diverse programme, the festival covers everything from music, theatre, and dance, to visual arts, literature, and more.

Mere is responsible for programming ANZFA’s Māori and indigenous artistic content for the festival. There are a couple of shows that she is particularly excited to present.

‘Hatupatu | Kurungaituku: A Forbidden Love’ is a new aerial theatre work based on the Te Arawa legend of Hatupatu and the bird woman Kurungaituku. It’s directed by award-winning artistic director and aerialist Tānemahuta Gray. “I can’t wait to see the magic that Tānemahuta creates with this traditional pūrākau (legend) from Te Arawa incorporating kapahaka, waiata, and aerial performance. He has cast the fearless and stunning Kasina Campbell as Kurangaituku and the multi-talented Eds Eramiha as Hatupatu,” says Mere.

Another show Mere’s excited to present is ‘The Savage Coloniser Show’. This is a theatrical adaptation of ‘The Savage Coloniser Book’, for which poet Tusiata Avia won the Ockham Award for poetry. She is the first female Pasifika poet to win the award. “I saw this theatre work at the Auckland Arts Festival last year and in my opinion, it was the best piece of theatre I had seen in a long time,” says Mere. “The are what ground this work which not only uplifts and entertains but also challenges and gives voice to the truth.”

The 2024 ANZFA programme includes a range of both ticketed and free events. With a diverse selection of local and international acts, it’s set to be a spectacular celebration of global talent. Speaking of the 2024 lineup Mere says, “This festival is a good balance of Māori, indigenous, New Zealand and international work. I feel that our festival gives a snapshot of who we are as a people and as a nation.” Her advice for anyone thinking of attending the festival for the first time is to do some research about the shows you are interested in seeing. Also — take risks. “Don’t just see a show that fits within your comfort zone,” she urges.