A response by Sarah Hudson
During te Hui Ahurei ā Tūhoe 2016, the Wellington-based Kava Club facilitated one of their ‘Chop Suey Hui’ events at the Taneatua Gallery. The evening was entitled Taneatua was an Islander. Kava Club is a community of Pasifika Māori creative minds based in Pōneke. They collaborate to produce events, or “Chop Suey Hui” which take many forms in many venues. At their core Kava Club can be seen as extending support, building connections, creating community. Throughout the evening at Taneatua was an Islander, dozens of people shared laughs, experiences, talent and food. There were a couple of standout elements that elevated this event from other gallery experiences I’ve had, the rich variety of talent presented was vibrant, and the presentation format fostered connections between those in attendance. One characteristic that was overwhelmingly evident, was the fierce glowing mauri of Kava Club, it drew me in and made me feel full and warm.
From a distance, I have followed the rapid development of Kava Club since their initial meetings at 17 Tory St in Wellington in 2014. The group constructed a Klubhouse at the 2016 Wellington Pasifika Festival, they created a space for dialogue about Māori and Pasifika sexuality in a “Gay’zeebo”, and repeatedly produce dynamic events with electric content that makes me want to teleport to where ever in the world that they are [ please read: fangirl ]. In March, I didn’t have to teleport, a van load of Kava Club representatives travelled from Pōneke to Tūhoe country to deliver a thoughtfully designed arts program. Their presence with Taneatua was an Islander, offered a much appreciated platform for Tūhoe artists to gather.
The evening moved through the grounds of the Taneatua Gallery and the neighbouring Te Kaokao o Takapau building. On the menu for the night was talks by artists and designers, a reading of an award winning play and a presentation by Hawaiian Cultural Centre ambassadors. For this part, I struggle to use the term ‘audience’ to describe the people who attended this Chop Suey Hui. Yes, it was an art event at a gallery, which would usually prescribe an intended audience; but Kava Club’s sphere of whanaungatanga encapsulated everyone in attendance and we moved from element to element together. There was a golden moment in the sunset where we all watched a Siva Samoa on the back deck of the old Tūhoe Embassy. The performance flowed off the deck and down a driveway, everyone followed to a kitchen where there was poetry recital. These transitions between spaces and diversity of happenings connected everyone with the art, the sites, and each other. It was this sense of interconnectedness that was a highlight of Taneatua was an Islander.
My name is Sarah Hudson, and I am a huge fan of collective making. There are so many different ways that collectives can work, various approaches; and to that, varying levels of execution. From my limited experience working in collectives, it seems to be important from the outset to have clear intentions, a solid kaupapa that lots of people can build towards. During my time at the Taneatua Chop Suey Hui I saw members of the Kava Club working hard to execute their vision, their energy pulled in other people around them. They constructed an event that took people on a journey, it brought them in and out of buildings, from day into night, from an empty puku to one actually filled with chop suey! The foundation of Kava Club was so solid that it encourages others to start building, which must be the best collective making there can be.