how do we do this?
music art dance food
The conference of the World Alliance for Arts Education has started! It is a connected conference of international drama, music, dance and visual arts networks that meets every 2 years. This time in Auckland it is also the meeting of the APCMN which is why I am here (see yesterdays blog for more definitions!).
There is a huge focus on the indigenous peoples of this region and the opening morning in spent in the traditional Maori space - the Waipapa Marae.
We are welcomed with songs and speeches (by a lovely community leader) in the Maori language inside a beautiful space. This is good! In the speeches there is much acknowledgement of people - the ancestors, the speakers, the guests, the singers.. it is very respectful and lovely to be part of especially as the language itself is so good to listen to. We then eat and drink tea and in the conversations I inevitably ask questions about it all and then ponder: Who are our community leaders? (certainly not the politicians? Who are my ancestors? (as well as my relatives there are definitely mountains and rivers)
The first keynote conversation is titled "The tears of the collective: The role of community arts in healing historical trauma' and is led by Te Oti and Brydie with great presence, humour and love. We are brought together any these musicians to think about the wider issues of our role in our communities and the session finishes with this quote from a First Peoples artist in Queensland'If you have come here to try and save me, go. If you have come because your liberation is bound with mine - let's work"
In the lunchtime break the community musicians meet to say hello and acknowledge the presence of their network here in the region. The conversation is good as the 17 people in the room introduce themselves and share their interests. We will meet 2 more times in these days.
Then we go into a session for the whole conference that is quite odd. It is based around trying to get us thinking, asking questions, meeting each other and consider a whole bunch of issues including those around the UN sustainable development goals. It moves very fast with processes dictated by the facilitator and many of the people feel a bit frustrated - especially at the speed and the need to use language all the time. For the non english speakers it is very exclusive, sadly. However we do meet lots of people in the room and a few issues arise that may be useful to consider as we move through the conference - two for me are about high art vs community art and "do we always have to give others values to artistic activity".. not world breaking but it was certainly thought provoking.
Then to 4 young researchers presenting their early stage studies and this is interesting to see and hear. I especially like the last speaker - a poet and secondary school teacher from the Maori community who says that 'I want to teach young people how to speak eloquently and share their voice in confidently, this is what I do'.
We watch a new film that documents dance in city projects from seven countries and is very beautiful made - it mixes community dancers with professionals all making dance in urban and rural spaces. I don't generally get on with dance but this really works for me.
And the day ends with a reception and I sit and talk with community music colleagues before walking home alone. I pass these men painting at night.