21 Dec 2023

Culture 101: Best of 2023

6:23 pm on 22 December 2023

Perlina's Picks

A Yum Cha feast for Aotearoa history

There is something particularly endearing about knitted food. While we were all busy making sourdough during lockdown, artist Bev Moon was busy crafting knitted dim sim. What started out as a few dishes became a feast. But beyond the delicacies, Fortune became a way to pay homage to her mother and grandmother, who were both skillful in cooking and knitting, and to educate people about the Chinese poll tax. And after all, everybody needs to eat.


Fortune Photo: Supplied

Renowned Chinese haute couture designer Guo Pei in Aotearoa

While most of us will know her for the show-stopping yellow canary cape dress Rihanna wore to the Met Gala in 2015, China's only haute couture designer Guo Pei, had already been a designer and artist for more than three decades. To call her designs "fashion" almost feels inadequate. Her magnificent, handcrafted and structured gowns reveal a vivid imagination inspired by myths, legends, religion and fantasy. Her exhibition of more than 60 gowns will be at Auckland Art Gallery until the start of May and I strongly encourage you to go!

Guo Pei - The Yellow Queen - 2009

Photo: RNZ / Yiting Lin

Drumming for a healthy mind and body

If you're on the fence about a drum kit for your kids for Christmas, then perhaps this will be the story that tips you over because tapping, beating and bashing could be the answer to better mental health. It's also been shown to improve self-esteem, interpersonal trust and reduce anxiety and depression. For musician and teacher Chris O'Connor it was also the perfect place to channel all his teenage angst. It became a place of solace where he could shed all his concerns.

Chris O'Connor

Chris O'Connor Photo: Andi Crown Photography

Irish chef in Japan breaks world record for non-stop cooking

I'm dreading the prospect of peeling three kilograms of spuds this Christmas, let alone 300 kilograms. But that's what Irish chef, Alan Fisher, did to take home the Guinness World Record for cooking non-stop. Beating the previous record by 24 hours. Fisher cooked for 119 hours and 57 minutes. He peeled 300 kgs of potatoes, made 357 kgs of soda bread and 3360 portions of food. He'd dunk his head into a large bowl of ice before peeling the potatoes so he wouldn't fall asleep. Suddenly, I'm feeling less sorry for myself.

Irish chef in Japan Alan Fisher.

Alan Fisher Photo: Supplied

Switzerland: Finding yourself in a psychological thriller

A psychological thriller, only this time, the writer is the story herself. Switzerland is based on the life of real-life best-selling American writer, Patricia Highsmith, whose works include The Talented Mr Ripley and Strangers on a Train.

Sarah Peirse

Photo: Auckland Theatre Company

Mark's Picks

American slime mould tours Aotearoa

Not only did self-confessed 'slime mould' American performance artist Kalan Sherrard bring a dead possum into the studio (I refused to go near it), but he then requested we honour its life with a period of silence, and proceeded to follow that up with a puppet show (another no no in radio). 10 seconds of silence lasts a long time on air.

Artist Kalan Sherrard his artistic anti-hero Enormousface

Extinction Cart 2019 Photo: Kalan Sherrard

From Jail to Judaism and dissing Kanye West

It was before the Hamas attack and the tragic conflict that has unfolded in Gaza. Kosha Dillz is a Jewish New York rapper who's not only very funny and has his own big story to tell, but stood up to Kanye (Ye) West's anti-semitic outbursts. A window into contemporary Jewish culture we too rarely get, squarely asking us not to conflate Jewish culture with current Israeli politics.

Kosha Dillz

Kosha Dillz Photo: Supplied

The time warp turns 50

50 years since The Rocky Horror Show premiered in London and its creator Richard O'Brien has just premiered a new musical with students from the Tauranga schools he attended back in the 50s. Not only that: Kingdom of Bling is a fun fantastical response to O'Brien's horror at the prospect of having Donald Trump as US president again. What a Culture Trooper!

Richard O'Brien

Richard O'Brien Photo: Graeme Murray

Pita Turei: grounding the arts in Tāmaki Makaurau

Not all legends stand in the full limelight - some make space strong for others. It was an immense privilege to start our Culture 101 programme with an inspiration who embodies the breadth of culture's impact beyond the boxes we put around the arts. Tamaki Makaurau's Pita Turei is a storyteller who grounds many artists' work in the whenua. A career that stretches from being an extra in the film Sleeping Dogs in the '70s, to leading a blessing on the set of Lee Tamahori's latest The Convert.

Pita Turei

Pita Turei Photo: supplied

NZ's role in the peace and culture of Bougainville

When RNZ dialed into Buka Town, the capital of the Autonomous Region of Bouganville, north of the Solomons the local radio station was busy, so guest artist Marilyn Havoi shot across the field to the local police station. Which it turned out was being manned by a bunch of Kiwis. "Kia ora" came down the line!

Aotearoa feels much closer to the people of Pacific, than we New Zealanders might sometimes feel to the Pacific. I reckon that needs to change. Marilyn - who speaks fascinatingly about her design of the Bougainville flag - was here in the '90s when a peace agreement ending a civil war was made at Christchurch's Burnham Military Camp. It's an event explored - alongside a showing of her paintings - in a memorable 2023 exhibition at Dunedin Public Art Gallery by her daughter Taloi Havini, who joined us on the line from Brisbane.

Just one example of how 2023 was a remarkable year for a new generation of Māori and Pacific Island artists in our public galleries.

Remembering the Bougainville peace process in NZ and the country's future. Installation image of Taloi and Marilyn Havini's Shared Aspirations at Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Photo: Justin Spiers

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