Image: Andrew Matautia
Who is it for?
Porirua was one of a number of places my dad lived during his childhood. He lived in a state house on Warspite Ave going to Cannons Creek School. His memory of Porirua is waiting for my Grandfather to beat up my Grandmother then going on the bus back up to Auckland, till a week later they would be back in Porirua again, waiting for the cycle to re-start, eventually settling in West Auckland.
Driving past patched members on the way to the Waitangirua Market on Saturday morning to see the Bread Makers of Porirua, Unite by Simon Gray stall, I can’t help but think what we as TEZA know about the varied Porirua lived experiences. Regardless of my Dad’s connection to this place, I am in no way local and neither is TEZA.
TEZA without a doubt is well intentioned, conscious of their positions as outsiders. As Mark Amery recently wrote, “… who are we as outsiders to come in and make the space? The reality is that it’s precisely because we don’t come from one local agenda or group that we have the ability to at least trial opening out new common ground for the wild flowers to spring up in.” But I still can’t help but feel like a cultural tourist reflecting on stereotyped references of the community and to movies like The Dark Horse, waiting to see how the community will react to these various projects across the city. I wonder though if we did have a shared local agenda maybe we would know more about what the community wants and needs (or if they want us at all), rather than designing projects based on our own assumptions, subsequently looking for community buy-in.
Bread Makers of Porirua, Unite by Simon could be a model for community art making in a suburb other than your own. Rather than waiting for TEZA week to get the ball rolling, in a way this week is just another week with other outcomes. Simon put together sourdough starter packs with locally sourced ingredients which he has already distributed all over the city.
The markets are full of roti wraps, like curry but in wrap form. Genius! I sat down to eat my brunch and was joined by a beautiful couple who insisted I try their dumplings. In their hand was a flyer for Paula MacEwan’s The Active Citizen’s Funeral (who also runs Koha Shed Cannons Creek). So there I was, staring at this woman’s moko kauai, eating dinner for breakfast, brainstorming how we would like to go. Death, a strangely unifying and comforting subject.
Faith Wilson (collaborator for the Porirua People’s Library) and I were heading for the Oasis Community Centre a space right in Mall where you can have tea, a sit down and a chat they also offer services like helping to write your CV. It was good relational aesthetics without trying. On our way in, we bumped into Katarina who was giving us a flyer for that same space. Holding a TEZA programme she asked if we were involved, going on to tell us that Simon dropped a sourdough starter kit to her house a couple of weeks ago. When we walked in, our brunch dates were already sitting there. More women followed, insisting we eat their panikeke. The breaking of bread in Porirua is already happening. There was a wealth of hospitality, generosity and no expectation for your time or your conversations, but more just a fixed safe space, whether you wanted it or not.
The first TEZA Creative Summit was at Te Rito Gardens (after a tour of the Porirua Hospital Museum and gardens themselves). And again there was Simon who had made his bread into Pizza. I have to confess I don’t know anything about gardening and very little about mental health. We are all so polite, a critical and open discussion between 25ish strangers is a hard thing to ask. Wiremu Grace talked about how the land itself was once stolen and is currently being sold back to Ngāti Toa but the general conversation revolved around mental health, the role of safe places, providing people with purpose, and rongoā. With an autistic brother I couldn’t help but wonder who are we to decide what an individual’s purpose is, and is it appropriate to talking about people and not with people.
A quick rush back to the TEZA hub and voila the project was launched. And yet again there Simon was with even more bread, quickly followed by karaoke, chop suey and punch, thanks to the Kava Club.
I’m new to Chop Suey Hui and this deluxe edition was something special. While slightly under populated, the hosting was on fire. The night opened with a local rapper and ended with a local DJ, both played with conviction, I was into it.
I’m already booked in for a new do at the All-Good? Pop up Hair Salon and the space that’s been created for artists all with social interests is beyond valuable. During the project presentations Kerry Ann Lee (also of the Porirua People’s Library) asked the audience how many of them work and live in Porirua, about 10 hands went up. Again that raised the flag are we talking about the community and not with it? I just wonder when we vacate our temporary space and go back to our day jobs who will it all have been for.