Molly Mullen and Bōni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho – Disrupting and decolonising the economies of applied performance in Aotearoa


Molly Mullen and Bōni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho

University of Auckland

Disrupting and decolonising the economies of applied performance in Aotearoa

Neoliberal capitalism has been actively embedded in Aotearoa New Zealand’s social fabric. For some scholars, it has so fully inhabited the social imaginary that coherent economic alternatives are impossible to imagine.[1] In the arts, a capitalist logic has been infused throughout the creative process and artists’ attempts to pose economic alternatives are dismissed as impotent gestures. Feminist duo J. K. Gibson-Graham[2] offer an alternative way to view critical and creative economic experiments. Gibson-Graham propose multiple strategies for expanding the economic imaginary, decentring capitalism, and for cultivating diverse economic subjectivities and practices. This presentation is interested in the ways performance might enact or expand on these strategies.

In Aotearoa, re-thinking institutions like the economy involves interrogating their relationship with colonialism. Colonial capitalism exploited the tangible and intangible assets of Māori and disrupted the ‘economy of mana’, which was integral to Māori wellbeing’.[3]  This presentation considers the ways Aotearoa applied performance company, Taurima Vibes Ltd. experience, resist and transcend neoliberal & colonial capitalist systems. As a Māori-led applied performance company, Taurima Vibes Ltd. offers two modes of engagement: Facilitation and community brokership. Its work draws on the ideals of manaakitanga and safety, and its director’s grounding in tikanga Māori. This presentation examines Taurima Vibes’ kaupapa and process. Taurima Vibes walks alongside the people it engages with, creating safe, interactive environments for collective creativity. We look at what this means in Taurima Vibes’ creative practice and its approach to resourcing and organising its work, with a focus on the Puāwai Festival, an event aiming to reduce stigma through performance, education, laughter and song.

Bōni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho is Kaiwhakahaere Matua/Founder of ‘Taurima Vibes’ and the current director of Auckland Fringe Festival. He is a member of the HPA National Māori Mental Health advisory panel and holds all works paces within a wellness and  Tīkanga Māori framework, based on cultural protocols and concepts learnt from whānau.

Molly Mullen is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work with a background in theatre education, youth theatre, community arts and children’s theatre. Her research examines the economies of applied theatre and socially engaged arts practice, encompassing issues related to policy and funding, as well as forms of organisation, management and work. 

[1] Fisher, M. (2009). Capitalist realism: Is there no alternative? John Hunt Publishing.

[2] Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2006). A postcapitalist politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

[3] Hēnare, M. (2014). The economy of mana. In D. Cooke, C. Hill, P. Baskett, & R. Irwin. (Eds.), Beyond the free market: Rebuilding a just society in New Zealand (pp. 65–69). Auckland, New Zealand: Dunmore.

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