In 2019, over the year of my internship with ĀKAU, the same issue of not enough streetlight would be brought up by the community again and again. During this year I was introduced to Sasha Wilson, a local light sculpture installation artist and a trustee of Te Pū O Te Wheke Community Arts Gallery. Sasha has a dream. She wants to create a new aesthetic for Kaikohe – to “bling the town out” with light sculpture.
I saw an opportunity to change perceptions by combining the kōrero of the taitamariki and whānau for better public lighting with Sasha Wilson’s dream to “bling the town out” with light. And so, Bling Bling was created.
Bling Bling is about many things. Establishing a creative space dedicated to the education, research, development, and creation of light art. Encouraging collaboration between taitamariki and the creative arts community in Kaikohe. But at its core is a desire to offer rangatahi a chance to invest their mauri into their town.
In 2020 Bling Bling brought people together to celebrate the creativity of the community through a Light Festival. The theme of the event was “Bringing light to the depths of Tangaroa”, a reflection and response to the kōrero from whānau and taitamariki - that the town was to dark and they didn’t feel safe at night.
Despite just coming out of Level 4 Lockdown for COVID-19 so many kaiako and taitamariki from Kaikohe, Ōkaihau and Moerewa were eager to start creating and make Bling Bling happen. ĀKAU collaborated with Te Pū O Te Wheke Community Art Gallery who held after-school whānau workshops that encouraged the wider community to connect and be involved. Even ĀKAU got messy with lots of making with their whānau.
We set up Te Ana Marama – The Light Cave on the Old Hotel Site on Broadway of Kaikohe as the main event space; a large scaffolding structure filled to the brim with light art made by the taitamariki and whānau. The site hadn’t been used in over 5 years and drew the towns attention. Te Pū O Te Wheke Community Arts Gallery held its own Light Art exhibit which ran for 2 weeks alongside Bling Bling with large sculptural pieces utilizing recycled materials created by members of the community.
Bling Bling was held over 3 days during Puanga/Matariki- the Māori New Year. The opening was held at Te Pū O Te Wheke Community Arts Gallery before everyone made the hīkoi to Te Ana Marama. I was blown away by the amount of people that came each night. Long queues ran down the street with more and more people filling up as the minutes ticked by. The Kaikohe Night Market lit up the outdoor space with warmth and really made it feel like Bling Bling was a giant whānau gathering.
From schools of fish and bright clusters of coral to sea pou and Tangaroa himself every corner of Te Ana Marama was filled with people and light art. It was really exciting to see so many whānau having fun, experiencing the taitamariki art work and leaving their mark on Bling Bling.
It's my hope that Bling Bling will continue to grow a strong, connected community and fill the town with light.
What a huge effort. Light the way despite the Covid interruptions.