Auckland Writers Festival – Bernardine Evaristo
Left: Nas Right: Hamilton (The Musical)
New Zealand International Comedy Festival – Sara Pascoe & Dylan Moran

From art exhibitions and charity auctions to international festivals, your definitive May Culture Guide

The month of May brings a fresh cultural bounty to the fore, spanning everything from inspirational festivals for creatives to sheer musical talent. These are the events worth taking note of. With festivals aplenty, and exhibitions you simply must visit, our May Culture Guide takes form in a discerning digest packed with ample entertainment for the month ahead.

Gumboot Friday Art Auction

Turua Gallery has pledged its support for Gumboot Friday, the charity providing free counselling services to New Zealand’s youth. To aid the cause, fifteen New Zealand artists have generously contributed their works for auction, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Gumboot Friday. For gallery owner Melissa Wallace, the event is not only a fundraiser but also a chance to offer visitors a dose of the country’s vibrant culture. As such, come Friday the 12th of May, art enthusiasts and supporters of mental health advocacy will unite to celebrate our rich artistic heritage and make a positive impact on the community. Necessary details can be found here.

New Zealand Comedy Festival – Joe Lycett & Sara Pascoe

New Zealand International Comedy Festival

Crack open the diary and dust off the calendar, the New Zealand International Comedy Festival is back, and with its 30th anniversary in tow, it’s ready to deliver a tumultuous celebration of live comedy. Boasting a lineup of more than 150 local and international comedians, the festival kicks off today and will run for three weeks filled to the brim with laughter. After a brief hiatus, international comedy heavyweights like Joe Lycett, Sara Pascoe, Dylan Moran and Lloyd Langford are set to grace the stage once again, ready to deliver unforgettable performances. The full programme can be found here, including information about and tickets to the Wellington shows.

Witi’s Wāhine

Following last night’s opening night, this has been noted one of the shows of the seasons and having born witness it its brilliance first hand, we can safely say this is the event of the season. Few New Zealand literary figures are as notable as Wii Ihimaera, who has dedicated his career to telling the stories of Māori women. In this Auckland Theatre Company production, the late Nancy Brunning’s story comes to life — a love song to the matriarchs of Ihimaera’s well-read works, reflecting a celebrated version of our history too. Running through until Saturday the 20th of May, tickets are available here (and might we suggest a delicious dinner to match too).

May Culture Guide
Pastels & Prosecco with Brogan Scott & Brothers Beer

Pastels & Prosecco with Brogan Scott & Brothers Beer

This month, local brewing masters Brothers Beer and illustrator Brogan Scott are collaborating on a series of Pastel & Prosecco workshops at their greater Auckland bars. Attendees can explore the enchantment of oil pastels and create an individualized still-life flower drawing during the event, with each participant producing a singular work of art. While two such events have been and gone, there’s still an opportunity to join on Thursday the 11th of May in Onehunga and Thursday the 18th of May in Mount Eden. Tickets, which include a drink and all necessary supplies, can be purchased on Brogan Scott’s website here.

Resene Architecture & Design Film Festival

Under the guidance of Resene for the second year now, our local Architecture & Design Film Festival is a vibrant celebration of creativity and innovation, showcasing a diverse range of documentaries that delve into the worlds of iconic architects like Le Corbusier and Geoffrey Bawa, as well as emerging talents exploring sustainable design. With a focus on critical thinking and authentic action, the festival offers a glimpse into the future of architecture and design, where problem-solving and unbridled creativity reign supreme. This year’s lineup features a groundbreaking New Zealand-made feature film, Brown vs. Brown, alongside two short films that pay homage to Māori architecture and its connection to whakapapa. The festival’s expansion into new locations reflects the growing demand for inspiration and a renewed appreciation for the built environment. Find all of the info here.

Petal Group Exhibition – Artists Brad Novak & Frankie Meaden

Petal Group Exhibition

This weekend, Herne Bay’s The Frame Gallery will host the final days of Petal, a group show celebrating the beauty of botanicals by contemporary New Zealand artists. Showcasing a diverse range of styles in the botanical genre, the exhibition aims to bring the outside world into people’s homes with joyous and uplifting works. From textile artist Frankie Meaden’s stunning large-scale public works to Lizzie Pannell’s meticulously layered paintings that grow organically, the exhibition offers a unique experience of contemporary art that captures the energy and colour of the natural world. Click here for details and the complete catalogue.

Food & Fashion Pop-Up Store – BRONWYN, Hej-Hej & Raaie

Food & Fashion Pop-Up Store

In a collaborative effort, five local female-led brands have opened a pop-up retail space in Auckland, New Zealand, showcasing the latest collections of some of the country’s favorite brands. The space, located at 568 Great North Road, offers a unique retail experience featuring contemporary and sustainable footwear from Bronwyn, everyday underwire-free lingerie from Videris, Asian-fusion treats from Fankery Bakery, and skincare from Raaie. Additionally, Hej-Hej’s playful and welcoming brand offers a refreshing collection of pieces made from linen, cashmere, and knits. With a focus on locally owned businesses, this retail space is a must-visit destination for those in need of a winter wardrobe update. On now until Saturday the 20th of May, more details can be found here.

May Culture Guide
New Zealand Music Month – No Comply

New Zealand Music Month

New Zealand Music Month has become a cultural fixture, evolving from a movement to increase the radio airplay of local music to a month-long celebration of the country’s musical talent. The event, organized by the NZ Music Commission, is supported by various other organisations, including NZ On Air, Recorded Music New Zealand, APRA, The Music Managers Forum, and Independent Music NZ, as well as the general public, labels, media and artists. With hundreds of gigs and new releases on the horizon, NZ Music Month is sure to be a thrilling experience, and the seriously abundant calendar can be found here.

Flow Studio at Ponsonby Central

The masterful potters behind Flow Studio are taking the opportunity to showcase their deft craft in the first half of this May, with a collaborative exhibition alongside Pompeii Home at Ponsonby Central’s beloved pop-up space. Shop a bespoke and curated edit of ceramics, including ample vases and other inspired structural forms. All the details you need to know can be found here.

Hamilton (The Musical)

French Film Festival

As the winter months approach, the L’OR French Film Festival Aotearoa returns with the crème de la crème of French cinema. Nicolas Bedos’ Masquerade, a Riviera-set mystery featuring France’s most recognisable leading men, opens the festival, alongside four other Cannes films. With a great lineup of comedies and dramas, the festival promises to be a tour de cinema not to be missed. Auckland dates begin on Wednesday, the 31st of May, with an impressive three-week romp of cinematic action. Discover the full programme and tickets here.

Hamilton (The Musical)

It’s fair to say that Hamilton (The Musical) has held global audiences captive since launching onto the Broadway stages in 2015. Finally now, towards the latter half of May, it’s our turn to play audience to the theatrical spectacle in person. Performed by the antipodean cast, with the inclusion of New Zealand’s own Matu Ngaropo reprising the role of George Washington, the show’s season is set to be nothing short of spectacular. The remaining tickets are available here.

Auckland Writers Festival – Colson Whitehead, Eleanor Catton & Jenny Odell

Auckland Writers Festival

Our greatest literary extravaganza is again poised to take hold this month, featuring a lauded line-up of the most impressive international authors, and those grown closer to home. We could wax lyrical about how much we look forward to the Auckland Writers Festival line-up every year. The 2023 Auckland Writers Festival programme sees a return to the original, 100 percent in-person format, hosting more than 160 live events spanning six days in late May. We delved into our top picks from the lineup earlier this season here, we’d recommend booking with haste.

Vanuatu Arts & Crafts in Auckland

Starting next week, Auckland Museum Store will host the Vanuatu Arts & Crafts Showcase, featuring traditional and contemporary techniques such as carving, beading, baskets, bags and more. Many of these unique items have never been available for sale internationally, making this a rare opportunity to experience the artistry of Vanuatu. Additionally, the showcase will feature three ni Vanuatu artists from remote rural communities who are members of handicraft hubs promoting community-led approaches to showcase their products across Vanuatu, now casting their net further afield. More information, including opening hours, can be found on the Auckland Museum website.

May Culture Guide
Wu-Tang Clan

Wu-Tang Clan & Nas

Next week, hip-hop luminaries Wu-Tang Clan and Nas are set to make their mark on New Zealand with a much-anticipated stop on their NY State of Mind tour. Following a sold-out 2022 tour run that reached more than 25 cities and included a memorable performance at the Hollywood Bowl, this year’s tour promises to be legendary, with multiple global destinations on the horizon. The tour has already earned a nomination for Pollstar’s 2022 Hip Hop Tour of The Year, a testament to the talent and appeal of these iconic artists. A few final tickets are available from Live Nation’s website.

NZ South African Film Festival

The 5th annual South African Film Festival is set to take place from now until the 31st of May, and this year will feature an impressive lineup of international films, documentaries and independent cinema. Opening in Auckland before touring the country, it offers a rare opportunity to experience the captivating magic of South African cinema on the grand screen, with titles such as Music Is My Life, about Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and The Fragile King, a moving title from Student Academy Award Winner Tristan Holmes. The full programme and tickets are available here.


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