In March, ACT leader David Seymour demanded that the government withdraw money given to “a racist stage show about murdering James Cook” - Tusiata Avia’s acclaimed The Savage Coloniser. By year end ACT were in coalition government and Avia had released another acclaimed book of poems, Big Fat Brown Bitch. Then in December protestors were arrested at Te Papa for defacing a display of an English version of the Treaty of Waitangi, only by the end of the week for their redacted version to be recognised as art and turned into a poster to support their legal costs by Enjoy Contemporary Art Space.
In 2023 politics and culture often seemed entwined. Our public galleries, bookshops and theatres have been full of contemporary work by more Māori and Pacific Island artists than ever before, while in cinemas new Aotearoa films like Uproar reminded us art and politics have never been far removed.
In 2023 funders like Creative New Zealand and NZ on Air have been under fire, venues have scrambled to get back to normal after some lockdown-hampered years, and the cost of living has bitten for artists. But there’s been plenty of good news. Visual artists finally got a resale royalty on their work they’ve long campaigned for, and it’s arguably been a golden year for our television and literature. Joining Mark Amery and Perlina Lau on Culture 101 to consider the year that was and pick some cultural highlights are Erin Harrington in Ōtautahi Christchurch, André Chumko and Sarah Laing in Poneke Wellington and Sam Brooks and Gemma Gracewood in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.
Erin Harrington is a critic based in Ōtautahi Christchurch. She is a senior lecturer in English, a horror movie buff, on the board of WORD Christchurch, and runs a performing arts review blog Flat City Field Notes.
André Chumko is an award winning Wellington-based senior arts journalist who's been with newspaper The Post and its predecessor The Dominion Post since 2017.
Sarah Laing is an author, graphic novelist and graphic designer. Her work has included three graphic novels, three novels, and a collection of short stories. Also a musician she’s one half of the trio The Interlopers and a member of band The New Things.
Gemma Gracewood is a writer, producer and the editor in chief of the New Zealand-made app and website Letterboxd, which hosts a worldwide network of 10 million film lovers who rate, review and share their movie-watching activities. Gemma is a champion of Aotearoa’s screen industry, where her production credits span film, television, radio, theatre and online series. She has also toured the world with the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra.
Sam Brooks is an award-winning and prolific playwright and journalist, noted for his queer and political work. As a journalist, he is currently the Staff Feature Writer at The Spinoff, covering topics as diverse as arts and culture, gaming, entertainment and politics. He was recently nominated for a Voyager Media Award for his arts and culture reporting.