Simon Draper's April 2023 Update

In an Executive Director's Update I wrote at the beginning of this this year, I mentioned that if 2022 was about putting the groundwork in place to ramp up the Foundation’s engagement with Asia after the difficult Covid years, 2023 would be about seeing that planning bear fruit. Well, things have certainly ramped up, with all our programmes flat stick with activities that help Kiwis thrive in Asia.

In this update, I’ll shine a light on some of the work our arts programme has been doing – partly because it’s been a particularly busy month in the arts, but also because the arts sector has had a tough time of it recently. While Covid is no longer impacting how we live to such a degree, the arts sector continues to feel its effect, with galleries and arts spaces closing and funding harder to come by.

At the Foundation, we know the importance of the arts as a means of bridging cultural gaps and helping New Zealanders gain greater understanding of Asia and Asian cultures. That’s why we invest in bringing Asian artists to New Zealand and provide opportunities for New Zealand arts practitioners to experience Asia, to develop their understanding of Asia’s arts sectors and make industry contacts. 

The recent WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festival was a great example of how the Foundation helps expose New Zealand audiences to some of the incredible traditional and contemporary music of Asia. 

A band of stage with coloured lights and a large screen with a projection of the performance behind them

South Korean folk/pop group ADGI (Photo: Vanessa Laurie and Leanne Silver)

The Foundation supported organisers to bring three acts to the New Plymouth festival: Rizwan Muazzam and Mujahid Ali Khan, who play traditional music of the Sufis of Pakistan and India; South Korean folk/pop group ADGI; and influential Indian flutist Ronu Majumdar. Our director arts Craig Cooper, who attended the festival, reports that the three acts were extremely well received by festival goers.

A woman playing a sitar on stage with the WOMAD banner behind her

A sitar player accompanying flutist Ronu Majumdar (Photo: Vanessa Laurie and Leanne Silver)

In the outward-looking space, we’re currently accepting applications for out Arts Practitioners Fund and the Curators Tour.

The Arts Practitioners Fund provides support for experiential opportunities for individual New Zealand-based arts practitioners to deepen artistic and professional connections with Asia, through the likes of residencies, work placements, research tours and exchanges. And the Curators tour will take group of New Zealand curators to experience the Frieze Art Fair in Seoul, to build market knowledge of South Korea’s contemporary arts practices, develop networks in the region and explore ideas for future collaborations.  

Three curators ooking at an abstract art work made of a translucent white material

Participants on a previous Curators Tour visiting an exhibition in South Korea

The expectation from both these funding streams is that on their return from Asia, those who take part in the opportunities will use the contacts and knowledge they have acquired to incorporate Asia into their practices, be it in the art they produce or, in the case of Curators Tour participants, the art they exhibit, and in doing so, amplify Asian arts and cultures in New Zealand.   

While we know how impactful the arts can be at shining a light on Asia, it is largely anecdotal and through our own observations. However, our research team - in partnership with arts researcher Rosabel Tan - is currently undertaking a project that reveals New Zealand’s growing demand for cultural products from Asia (including music, TV, film, games, theatre) and how cultural flows from Asia are impacting New Zealand.

This research, to be published later this year, will provide us with a better understanding of how Asian arts and cultures impact Asia interest and knowledge levels here in Aotearoa and will highlight the benefits of having more content from Asia on our screens, stages, and galleries. 

Another important application round currently open is for this year’s intake of Leadership Network members. The Leadership Network is comprised of some of New Zealand’s most inspirational young leaders, providing them with the Asia knowledge and leadership skills to prepare them to lead New Zealand’s relationships in the region.

We’re expecting particularly strong interest in this year’s intake as it is the first we’ve held in two years – last year we decided to hold off bringing more members into the network so we could provide existing members with activities after two years of limited opportunities.

So, if you know a young (under 33 years) leader who has an interest in learning about and engaging with Asia, let them know. The connections they will make and the experiences they’ll have through being in the network will prove invaluable throughout their lives.

Finally, I’d like to farewell to our director communications and media Rebecca Palmer and welcome aboard our new director communications Katie Howe. Rebecca will be taking up a position with the Ministry of Health after more than ten years with the Foundation. She will be greatly missed, not only for her incredible knowledge of the Foundation and its operations and as a cool head under pressure, but as a friendly face around the office. We wish her all the best.

Katie brings with her a wealth of experience in corporate communications, public relations, media and strategic planning. Katie is from Australia but has spent 13 years living and working in communications in Asia (Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore) and speaks Mandarin. No doubt many of you reading this will have the pleasure of meeting her in coming weeks and months.

With that, I’ll sign off on this April Update.

Ngā mihi maioha

Simon Draper