How tech enabled an indigenous digital arts platform in Aotearoa NZ

With many Wellington theatres shut down, the Kia Mau Festival finds a new way to engage audiences—and gain more insights on their audience.

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The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t the first act of nature that closed theatres in Aotearoa New Zealand. Before that, there were earthquakes that closed theatres considered unsafe and overdue for lengthy building strengthening projects. Such closures are why one arts festival turned to digital technology to keep performances alive and accessible.

Tawata Productions has created Moana Nui, a “sovereign indigenous arts platform” as a digital venue for its Kia Mau Festival with technology created by Hamilton-based Shift72, the company responsible for enabling online platforms for the Cannes Film Festival and South by Southwest in Texas.

Curator Mīria George, who founded Tawata Productions, says the Moana Nui platform features a range of work, from short documentaries on creators to film of live dance performances, with about 40% of the content from other indigenous communities. “There is a really vibrant and connected global indigenous theatre and dance network, and Moana Nui has been able to tap into that and to share stories from our cousins, some of whom are in the midst of the third wave of COVID,” she says.

Becoming proficient in IT to enable digital performance space

A Ministry of Culture and Heritage COVID relief grant enabled George to use the services of Shift72, investing first in an initial build and, now that the festival is live, in the monthly subscription while festival runs its course. Organising the content, and finding a way to present live dance and drama online, has meant that George and her colleagues, who are all creative professionals, are becoming proficient in IT.

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