E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.
Kia ora tātou katoa.
During my term as Governor-General, I am proud to do what I can to promote our arts and culture, in all its glorious and exciting complexity, so thank you for inviting me to join Te Whaea’s 20th birthday celebrations. Happy birthday!
I remember well visiting this site while I was a University Student, for the annual Winter Show. This building housed a huge draughty showroom with various trade and retail exhibitions as well as food stalls, and the traditional fairground rides were outside. I was amongst the hundreds of thousands of people who flocked to the Show. There were even special Winter Show trains from the Wairapapa, Palmerston North, and Taihape.
This may be the first time I’ve been back since and I can hardly believe the transformation.
When the Wellington Winter Show first started here in 1928 the site was a real magnet for the people of this region. Up to 100,000 attended each year in its heyday. Now it is a magnet of a different kind – a magnet for creativity, learning and performance.
I don’t see the performing arts as a nice-to-have add-on. To me they are a fundamental part of what it means to be human, whether we are performers or in the audience. As the whakatauki says:
Kia kawea tātou e te rēhia
Let us be taken by the spirit of joy, of entertainment.
The arts replenish our spirit – and for that to happen, the arts themselves must be constantly replenished, with new talent and new works.
Te Whaea has provided a place where that can happen, drawing on the talent and energy of our aspiring performers.
Twenty years ago, a bold move brought Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School and the New Zealand School of Dance together under one roof.
At the opening, one of my predecessors as Governor-General, Sir Michael Hardie Boys, quoted from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where Bottom wakes from Puck's spell and says that he has had ‘a most rare vision’.
Te Whaea indeed represented a visionary step-change, and this building, with its natural light, sprung floors, and great acoustics, affirmed our belief that our home-grown talent had the potential to reach world-class standards.
Its name, Te Whaea – with its connotations of manaakitanga and mentoring – was well-chosen.
In addition to theatre and dance, this building has been a mothership to over 60 community groups, orchestral musicians, singers, talent scouts, circus performers, and the World of Wearable Art.
In Aotearoa/New Zealand, we are particularly blessed to have so many cultural traditions engaged in artistic conversation.
Our cultural scene owes much of its vibrancy to that process. And no doubt Te Whaea has benefited from the presence of international students, who have been attracted here by the quality of the tuition. Te Whaea’s influence has returned with them to their home countries, just as New Zealand graduates have taken Te Whaea influences out into the world.
Wherever they come from, and however talented they are, students need expert tuition and guidance to reach their potential.
I offer my congratulations to all the tutors and support staff who have helped the students achieve their goals. No doubt you have felt great satisfaction in seeing them go out into the world and flourish.
Te Whaea has certainly fulfilled its promise as one of the nation’s most prestigious arts incubators. Wellington, and our country as a whole, would be a much poorer place without it.
I wish everyone at Te Whaea all the very best with your mission in the years ahead.
Kia ora, kia kaha, huihui tātou katoa