ASIA: Art Stories in Aotearoa | Episode 5: Theatre

From ASIA: Art Stories in Aotearoa, 6:00 am on 26 April 2022

Series ClassificationG (General Audiences) | Watch the series here

As New Zealand's cultural landscape expands, artists of Asian heritage are sparking more inclusive conversations through their creative work.

In this short documentary series, 18 Asian-NZ artists from a range of disciplines reflect on how life in Aotearoa informs their work and sense of identity.

In Episode 5, we meet three theatre practitioners bringing diverse narratives to our stages – Sarita So, Ahi Karunaharan and Sananda Chatterjee.

Sarita So: A Cambodian Story

Sarita So

Sarita So Photo: Supplied

Sarita So is a first-generation New Zealander born in Cambodia.

She is an actor, writer, producer and co-founder of the Company I Ken So Productions with partner Ui Natano Keni. 

In her 2021 solo show Digging to Cambodia at Auckland's Basement Theatre, Sarita explored her parent's memories of living through the Khmer Rouge through her own lens as a first-generation New Zealander.

She has continuously worked in various arts roles, trained and taken on higher education to further creatively and professionally develop herself as an artist within film and theatre.

Sarita is a graduate of both Victoria University and Toi Whakaari, completing her MA in Creative Scriptwriting at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University in 2017. That year, she and Natano co-wrote and produced the play Riverside Kings, for which she won Best New Playwright at the Wellington Theatre Awards.

In 2013, she was named Best New Playwright at the Chapman Tripp Awards for her debut play Neang Neak's Legacy.

Ahi Karunaharan: Freedom of Thought

Ahi Karunaharan

Ahi Karunaharan Photo: Supplied

Arts Laureate Ahi Karunaharan brings with him a vision for exciting and culturally diverse new work.

Fleeing war and civil strife in his birth country of Sri Lanka, Aria came to New Zealand in the 1990s and continues to carry his Tamil identity proudly.

As an established theatre practitioner and playwright, Ari founded the theatre company Agaram Productions and curated/produced the first-ever South Asian Writers Festival.

He has been instrumental in bringing immigrant experiences into the New Zealand theatre spotlight.

Sananda Chatterjee: Theatre for the People

Sananda Chatterjee

Sananda Chatterjee Photo: Supplied

Sananda Chatterjee is a multi-disciplinary artist of Bengali (Indian) origin now based in Tāmaki Makaurau.

From her large ensemble works for Prayas Theatre (Aotearoa's leading South Asian theatre company) to independent and intimate works that interrogate and examine identity, gender and relationships from an intersectional feminist lens, Sananda's creative practice has seen her present works across various arts festivals, venues and production companies over the last 10 years.

Her directing highlights include Tanika Gupta's laugh riot Love 'n Stuff, the searching historical magnum opus Dara for Prayas Theatre, Perfect Shade at the Auckland Pride Festival, the award-winning Alexander The Great for Short and Sweet Festival and the critically acclaimed First World Problems 3.0.

Sananda has directed works for Proudly Asian Theatre's Fresh off the Page initiative, initiated and spearheaded community writing initiatives and masterclasses and produced and production-managed one-off arts events including the launch party for Auckland's Basement Theatre.

Most recently she has been creating digital content, including podcasts, blogs and social media marketing.


Kadambari Raghukumar

Kadambari Raghukumar Photo: Supplied

Presenter: Kadambari Raghukumar

Kadambari Raghukumar is an experienced presenter and TV director who was raised by oceanographer parents in Goa on the southwest coast of India and has been living in New Zealand since 2006. During her 14-year media career, she has been a reporter/director for the TVNZ series Asia Downunder and the TV3 series Neighbourhood. Kadambari currently presents Voices - RNZ's weekly series about people from all around the world who now live in Aotearoa New Zealand.



Arani Cuthbert

Arani Cuthbert Photo: Diva Productions

​Producer: Arani Cuthbert

Arani Cuthbert is an award-winning independent producer and the founder of Diva Productions. She is the long-term manager of New Zealand entertainers The Topp Twins. Arani produced TVNZ's top-rating series Topp Country - a three-time winner at the 2018 TV Awards and the hit documentary The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls which won Best Feature at the 2019 Qantas NZ Film and TV Awards. Arani is currently developing a comedy feature film.

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