Plenary Panels


Plenary Panel 1:

Waka Odyssey: Oceanic Theatre as an Expression of Unity

Friday 9 December | 9:00 – 10:15am

Room: Fale Pasifika, Building 275, 22 Wynyard Street


Dr Dorita Hannah, Independent Academic

Anna Marbrook, Director/Writer, Waka Odyssey

Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, Tohunga Ahurewa, Waka Odyssey

Kasia PolDesigner, Waka Odyssey

Waka Odyssey: Oceanic theatre as an expression of unity


Celebrating Aotearoa as a nation of voyagers, the 2018 New Zealand Festival of the Arts opened with an award-winning event centred on the legendary Polynesian navigator and explorer, Kupe. As a waterfront spectacle – co-created by Anna Marbrook, Kasia Pol and Hotorua Barclay-Kerr – the Waka Odyssey involved 20,000 spectators, a mass choir and a thousand-strong haka troupe as well as a global audience of 200,000 watching the event being livestreamed on social media.  The waterfront site of Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) was set with stage towers overlooking the harbour into which sailed a fleet of waka (traditional canoes) from around Aotearoa and the Pacific. The event was a curtain raiser for nine days of immersive experiences of the waka and waka culture across the whole Wellington region.


The co-creators of Waka Odyssey, Director/Writer Anna Marbrook, Tohunga Ahurewa Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, and Designer Kasia Pol will navigate you through the complexities of creating a work that seeks to both unite and speak uniquely of place and culture.


Independent academic Dorita Hannah, who specializes in Performance Design and Space, will discuss the urban impact of Waka Odyssey by focusing on Te Moana nui a Kiwa as oceanic ground and performative stage, which encourages a self-organising public and transforms the city into an extended fluid realm.

Waka Odyssey Images

Dr Dorita Hannah

Independent Academic

Photo of Dr Dorita Hannah


Dr Dorita Hannah is a designer whose practice and research spans the spatial, performing and visual arts. Her international projects range from theatre architecture (space-in-action) to public events (action-in-space), addressing the dynamics, politics and intermediality of built and virtual environments. She has published on Performance Design and Event-Space, while designing, curating and directing exhibitions, installations,  performances and workshops. Hannah’s award-winning creative work has been regularly selected for exhibition in World Stage Design and the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design & Space. She currently co-chairs IFTR’s Theatre & Architecture Working Group and the Performance+Design Working Group for PSi (Performance Studies international).

Anna Marbrook

Director/Writer, Waka Odyssey

Photo of Anna Marbrook


Anna has a directing career spanning nearly 30 years across film, television, theatre and large scale events. Her latest Feature Documentary LOIMATA The Sweetest Tears won best New Zealand Documentary and the Grand Prix France Televisions at FIFO. She created and series directed the 10-part Waka Warriors and co-directed the feature documentary Te Mana o Te Moana, the Pacific Voyagers, winner of a silver world medal at the New York Film and TV awards. She created and series-directed Real Pasifik Season 1 and 2 for TVNZ – both finalists in the New York Film and TV awards.

In 2018 Anna created Waka Odyssey with Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr and Kasia Pol and directing the NZ Arts Festival Opening , drawing a live audience of 20,000 and 200,000 online viewers of the live feed and winning best Arts or Cultural Event at the National Events Awards.  Anna’s work connects media with social change and activates communities in both process and presentation. She has forged a highly collaborative approach to story and has partnered with key community leaders to develop rich storytelling projects. In theatre, Anna co-founded Theatre at Large, devising and directing both new work and classics touring New Zealand and international festivals.

Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr

Tohunga Ahurewa, Waka Odyssey

Photo of Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr


Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr (Tainui) is the captain of the oceangoing waka Haunui. He is the son of Wharetoroa and Ngarungatapu Kerr, is married to Kim and has five children: Namaka, Turanga, Rangiiria, Noenoe and Hinemanu. Hotu has been sailing around the Pacific for more than thirty-five years. He paddles waka, sails waka, teaches waka. Hoturoa grew up with his numerous elders who nurtured and cared for him on the many marae of Waikato. He is a native Māori speaker and spent the first six years of his life with the Tuhoe people in Rūātoki, where his parents taught at the Rūātoki District High School. When he and his mother moved to Auckland when he was six years old, he learnt only the English language. Hoturoa recalls how the children laughed and mocked him for his inability to speak English when he started school in Auckland. He was educated at Onehunga High School and went on to study for a BA at the University of Auckland, and a Masters at Waikato University. His Master’s thesis investigated how the waka is a symbol of mana in the twenty-first century. He was a lecturer at Waikato University for over nineteen years. More recently he has specialised in education and leadership programmes that use the waka as a platform for learning and development. Hoturoa is an orator on his marae at Kāwhia, the home of Haunui, and the ancient landing and settlement place of his ancestral waka, Tainui and his ancestor Hoturoa.

Kasia Pol

Designer, Waka Odyssey

Photo of Kasia Pol


Polish born Kasia Pol is a is an artist, performance designer, initiator and creator of the most audacious projects who has based herself in NZ over 15 years while working and collaborating with various artists in New Zealand as well as in Germany, Denmark, Cyprus, Chile, Canada and Poland. She has developed a strong and unique visual language through her multidisciplinary practise in theatre, performance, visual arts, opera, dance, and film.  In her practice she engages in creative dialogues with artists from different cultures, countries, disciplines and social backgrounds. These encounters extend and deepen her understanding  of the world and enrich her journey as a contemporary artist.

Plenary Panel 2:

Travelling Together as and With Communities

Friday 9 December | 10:45am – 12:00pm

Room: Fale Pasifika, Building 275, 22 Wynyard Street


Huia O’Sullivan, Executive Director, Ngā Rangatahi Toa

Jacqui Moyes, Creative Director, Homeground

Dr Michelle Johansson, founding member of The Black Friars Theatre Company and Kaitiaki/CEO Ako Mātātupu of Teach First NZ

Facilitator/Chair: Dr Molly Mullen, Senior Lecturer, Waipapa Taumata Rau

How do performance makers travel together well as and with communities? Community arts and performance practices often claim to be non-hierarchical ‘safe’ places for mutual exchange. But this is by no means a given. The speakers on this panel discuss the mahi-work-craft involved in creating places where people can meet authentically. What needs to happen in and around a collaborative creative/performance process to enable a meeting of hearts and minds, support taha wairua, honour the wisdom each person brings to a process?  How can performing arts processes bridge the barriers or gaps in the system, between schools and alternative education, prisons and probation…? How are these other institutions brought on the journey, without killing the soul of the work?

The speakers will share approaches to making the journeys they are on with communities/participants sustainable, through collective mentoring, tuakana-teina processes and pathways into leadership roles.


Huia O’Sullivan

Executive director, Ngā Rangatahi Toa

Photo of Huia O'Sullivan


Ngā Rangatahi Toa’s executive director, Huia O’Sullivan (Te Atiawa ki Taranaki), has deep experience in youth development programmes and the issues and challenges that young people face in seizing educational and career opportunities. She has worked with Ngā Rangatahi Toa since 2016, first as Director of Engagement before becoming Executive Director in 2018.

Huia believes in working alongside young people and in the power of programmes grounded in Te Aō Māori to teach wellbeing and coping strategies. She has worked in positive youth development for over 22 years in wide and varied roles dedicated to a single purpose: to serve and advocate for young people while facilitating the process of them finding their own voices.

She has worked at the Families Commission, co-designing with community the document “Thriving in Practice” which is the current theory of change that is embedded in Ngā Rangatahi Toa’s work. When Huia’s not leading youth wānanga, creating or writing funding proposals, you’ll find her on her longboard skating, snowboarding or travelling.

Jacqui Moyes

Creative Director, Homeground

Photo of Jacqui Moyes


Jacqui Moyes is the Creative Director of Praying Mantis Productions. She has worked previously as the Arts in Corrections Advisor for Arts Access Aotearoa, and as an advisor to the Chief Censor of the Office of Film and Literature Classification. Jacqui has experience mentoring families engaged in social services, delivering and designing prison arts programmes, coordinating arts events, and has a background in community performing arts.

Jacqui manages Home Ground, an ongoing initiative that creates opportunities for women in the justice system to participate in high-quality arts process and practice. Home Ground uses multi-disciplinary arts practice (performing arts, perfumery, creative writing, raranga, clay work and more…) as a non-threatening, strengths-based approach to self-empowerment and community connectedness. Artists both inside and outside of prison are encouraged to create artistic responses to the issues women and whānau face in the justice system. 

In 2020 Jacqui was a finalist in the Women of Influence (Arts & Culture) Award, and Home Ground received the Highly Commended Whai Tikanga Award from Arts Access Aotearoa. In 2019 she received the Sonja Davies Peace Award, and in 2017 was a finalist in the Wellingtonian of the year Arts & Culture Award.

Dr Michelle Johansson

Founding member of The Black Friars Theatre Company and Kaitiaki/CEO Ako Mātātupu of Teach First NZ

Photo of Michelle Johansson


Michelle is a Tongan educator, theatre-maker, mother and former high school dropout. She serves as Kaitiaki at Ako Mātātupu: Teach First NZ, growing exceptional people to teach in low-decile schools. She is Kaiwhakahaere at Māia Centre for Social Justice and Education and the Creative Director of the Black Friars. South Auckland, decile-one born and bred, she is proud to work alongside amazing teachers, warriors, storytellers and change-makers to re-story Pasifika in the largest Polynesian city in the world, to activate indigenous knowledges, to grow future leaders and to hold courageous spaces for our young people to walk tall in all of their worlds.

Days until Conference









Call for Abstracts: 11 March
Abstract Submission closes: 9 May
Registration opens: 26 April
Registration closes: 12 noon NZT 29 November
Conference commences: 6-9 December


Contact Us

For abstract inquiries please contact Emma Willis;

For registration inquiries please contact Nickylee Anderson;