Onehunga is throwing a nine-day celebration of the creativity that defines the suburb. Josie Adams reports on what you need to visit on every single day of the Onehunga Arts Festival.
More than 35 events are scheduled to take place in Onehunga from the 22nd June through to the 30th as part of the suburb’s first arts festival. That’s 35 reasons to head to the creative suburb next week. The festival is a huge community effort and includes everything from kids’ classes to dance therapy and live tā moko tattooing demonstrations.
Inspired by local artist Bobby MacDonald’s mural The Story of the People Weaver, the festival will celebrate Matariki alongside the diverse work of the greater artistic community. To help you celebrate Matariki, art, and Onehunga, we’ve created a sample diary: nine days of inspiration and creation in one of Auckland’s most exciting suburbs.
The Onehunga Arts Festival officially kicks off at 10 am on Saturday, outside the Onehunga Community Library on Church Street. Performances will include the Tatau Dance Academy and local hip-hop royalty SWIDT. We recommend getting there early to catch members of the famous 312 Hub perform a few sets.
After seeing the team in action, you can see them at work by popping down to the Hub itself on Payne’s Lane, where the team is starting the festival in style. Super-creative Jermaine Dean is hosting a limited-space ‘Mates and Paints’ workshop for you to upcycle your old clothes. One session is at 10 am, and the next at 2 pm.
From 11 am visit St Peter’s Church to find hidden gems from the local artists. The exhibitions showcase the uncovered talent of Onehunga’s artistic community and features an array of painting, photography, sculpture and textile arts. Make a purchase!
Once the sun begins to set, head along to the Nga Atua Hou light projection at 77 Selwyn and Arthur Streets. Saturday night will be the first of two light shows, designed to celebrate Matariki by playing off Bobby MacDonald’s mural. The Story of the People Weaver features an image of local artist Amiria Puia-Taylor, who is known as a ‘people weaver’ for her work in bringing the communities of Onehunga together. Above her floats Hine Te Iwaiwa, the goddess of weaving and fertility. The light show will loop every 30 minutes between 6 pm and 9 pm, so you can pop in any time throughout the evening.
On Sunday, start the day off by visiting the old Hard-to-Find bookstore. The books may be gone, but the building is full; it will be home to a gallery pop-up all week. Work across a wide range of mediums — photography, paint, sculpture, textiles — from local artists will be on display from 9 am until 4 pm.
Once you’ve whet your high-art appetite, mosy on down to St Peter’s church for something a little less conventional. Crochet artist Lissy Cole will be yarn-bombing a bench and showing off her caravan, Handy Dandy.
If you missed the light show the night before, grab a bite at Almaz cafe and head over to the Trident car park to watch The Story of the People Weaver light up once again; the storytelling is beautiful and the Matariki stars will be shining bright overhead.
From 10.30 am – 1.30 pm on Monday, you can head to the Onehunga community centre to learn the traditional art of weaving. No experience is necessary, and materials will be provided. However, places are limited so you may want to call ahead.
After creating your own piece of locally-inspired art, you can search out Bobby MacDonald, who’s already working on his next piece. From 11 am to 4 pm every day this week, Bobby will be joined by fellow artist Karlee Hirovaana-Nicholls on the corner of Onehunga Mall and Pearce Street. They will be transforming the wall into a piece commemorating Elizabeth Yates, elected mayor of Onehunga in 1893, she was the first female mayor and justice of the peace in the British empire.
Watching the mural come together over the week is a fantastic opportunity for Aucklanders to learn more about local history and art, and how they intertwine. For more local takes on art and Onehunga, head to the 312 Hub for a photography exhibition. Included in this exhibit will be winning images from the What Does Onehunga Mean To You? kids’ photography competition.
Dance movement therapy is increasingly popular, but is often inaccessible — it can be hard to find teachers or classes at all, let alone in your price range. On Tuesday at 1.30 pm, you can find a therapy group at the Onehunga community centre for just a gold coin entry. Both youth and adults with special needs including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and cognitive delays are encouraged to come along to this inclusive dance group, designed to grow self-expression and social connection.
Follow up your self-expression with a learning experience: on both Monday and Tuesday, there’s a wood-carving demo at the former Hard-to-Find bookshop. From 3 pm to 7 pm, you can watch local carver Bayz Macdonald and his mahi whakairo in a live demonstration of traditional Māori carving.
On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Little Industry cafe will host Korero Toi, a series of art talks. Meant to highlight the many artists that thrive in Onehunga, Korero Toi is a great place to hear more about life as a creative, and how the Onehunga community makes it work. Local artists with work on display at the old Hard-to-Find bookstore will share their practices, processes, and parts of their personal life with anyone interested.
Emboldened by the Korero Toi talks and want to start creating? Head down to the community centre on Wednesday morning for a structured art class. Open to all skill levels, this free class is headed by local artist Keith Harford, who runs the same class most Wednesdays throughout the year.
If you’d like, you can follow up your art class with a walk around the pottery exhibition. Set up in The Box Gallery, this display showcases the best of local ceramic artists. Some pieces will be available for sale, so you can take home a unique Onehunga memento.
Follow up a calm day of art appreciation with a little theatre! The historic Dolphin Theatre is already showing First Date, a delightful, romantic show. It’s on every night at 8 pm, and earlier on Saturdays. The last day of its run is Saturday the 29th, so don’t miss out!
On Thursday morning drop by one of the festival’s historical exhibits. The community house on Selwyn Street is holding a short heritage exhibition, which for only $2 will take visitors back through the past using historical records. Photographs and registers feature alongside old primary school records and dental clinic artefacts.
If you have time afterwards, you can pop in for a bite at Craft Club, held inside Little Industry cafe. If you’re looking to do a little socialising while you finish your macramé, this is the place. From 10 am to noon, you can bring your craft projects along and complete in the company of like-minded folk and good coffee.
The Hard-to-Find pop up at 171 Onehunga Mall is open late on Thursday, so if you’re missing the galleries due to your 9 – 5 job you can drop by for a look-see any time up until 7 pm.
For the nimble-fingered, Sewing Machine World on the Onehunga Mall will be hosting a live demonstration on how to make a kimono jacket from 10 am until 2 pm. It’s a great chance to explore the craft shops on the suburb’s main strip: Naji’s Craft, and Tamerlane.
If you’re looking for some life-changing theatre, head along to The Great Escape at The Potters House Church. Showing on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, this show requires only a gold coin donation and promises an uplifting look at teen suicide. Using true stories of hope and saved lives, The Great Escape shows it’s possible to escape from your darkest moments.
For a lighter entertainment option, the community centre will be showing a series of short films about Onehunga and Matariki. Both new and old, these films will educate and enchant on the Friday and Saturday nights, between 6pm and 8pm. Oh, and don’t forget — tea and coffee are provided.
At a loss for what to do with your kids on a Saturday morning? Never fear, the 312 Hub is here. Visual arts specialist Nikita Chandra will be facilitating an art class for children between 9 and 13, with all materials donated by National Art Supplies.
Your preschoolers also have options: the library will have a half-hour of story time at 10.30 am. Local author Claire Bunt will be reading from her books The Green Hat That Blew Away and What Ever Happened to Milo?.
Hear from another local artist at Native Studios, where local tattooists will be doing live demonstrations of their world-class tā moko and Polynesian tatau from 10 am until 2 pm. You might even like to book yourself in!
For adults with an artistic itch, local cocktail bar The Bramble will be hosting a poetry writing workshop, lead by local poet Marina Afelesio. Let your creative juices flow with the help of a good drop and some mood lighting.
On the final day of the festival, take a look back at the families of Onehunga. Well-known Auckland photographer Tom Ang’s exhibit will be in the blue laneway next to the Onehunga club, and it’s the perfect way to get to know the suburb through its people. He’s captured unique, intergenerational family portraits and displayed them in the colourful streets of Onehunga, creating an intimate viewing experience that is on throughout the week.
Back at the 312 Hub again for the afternoon, you can participate in a hikoi that will reconnect you with the history of Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa as well as highlight the public artworks of Onehunga. You will have the opportunity to take some selfies in front of the famous Onehunga wall, and grab some lush local kai (we recommend Mr T’s for coffee and Penny Lane’s Bakery for pies).
The Hub will also be hosting a mural art workshop, which will teach you the basics of mural-painting alongside some easy ways to keep your mural environmentally-friendly.
This is the first time the festival has been held, and in classic Onehunga fashion, they’re basing it on the community. The locals have generosity and talent in piles, so be sure to visit — and then visit again, because Onehunga will always surprise you.
Check out the full line-up of events here.
This content was created in paid partnership with the Onehunga Business Association. Learn more about our partnerships here.