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ARONUI Indigenous Arts Festival postponed

ARONUI Indigenous Arts Festival has postponed its two-week calendar of events in Rotorua which was to take place from September 8-20.

This is due to restrictions on large gatherings under COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

At this alert level, mass gatherings are restricted to 100 people, with all events needing to follow strict physical distancing procedures. This years headline act, ‘Taurite’ by Hawaiki Tu, is currently on lock-down in Auckland under Alert Level 3 and their schedule has been affected which impacts the opening plans for the festival. Rotorua is also on alert due to the visitation of a member from the Auckland cluster in early August.

ARONUI Arts Festival trust chair, Mercia-Dawn Yates, believes "it is imperative at this time that we ensure the health and well-being of our performers, community, iwi and koeke".

ARONUI Festival director Cian Elyse White led the difficult call, after careful consultation with the trust, funders, iwi leaders and the artists.

"I’m incredibly proud of the ARONUI team’s efforts this year and even though we are ready to press go on this inspiring calendar of events, the latest announcement of community transmission in Auckland has made us pause and carefully consider our next steps as a festival.

"When it comes down to it, the safety and well-being of our koeke, iwi, community and artists is paramount, and putting our people at risk is simply not an option."

With events like the ARONUI Ma¬Åori Market which has more than 40 stalls, a team of 80 artists and an expected crowd of over 2000 people (in alignment with last year’s market numbers), the trust endorses the decision to hold off on the festival to avoid reducing numbers and lessening the impact of our kaupapa.

"ARONUI is all about bringing people together to celebrate high-quality indigenous arts here in Te Arawa," says Te Arawa leader, Sir Toby Curtis. Although Toby was looking forward to seeing Te Pikiko¬çtuku o Nga¬Åti Rongomai on stage with Hawaiki Tu, he believes that "if we aren’t able to be there safely and en masse to celebrate our people, we must postpone to a later date when we are free to do so".

Ngati Whakaue leaders Monty Morrison and Norma Sturley agree the postponement of ARONUI is a sensible decision. "The postponement is in the best interest of our koeke who are the most at risk demographic. Therefore, it is a decision that we commend the leadership on, and the team have our full backing."

The postponement dates will be confirmed in the next month, however, Mercia-Dawn and the ARONUI arts festival team remain hopeful.

"ARONUI isn’t ARONUI without the people, and we are building a legacy in this space. This is not a cancellation, but rather a postponement. I look forward to us coming together at a later date to celebrate, uplift and inspire through indigenous arts, when it is safe to do so, without any restrictions."

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