TORBA Music and Arts Festival | 30 September to 2 October 2019

It is not to late to make plans to participate in the forthcoming TORBA festival!

Through music and the arts, TORBA Music and Arts Festival – Dung Verei (Sound of the Island) will bring together stories and cultural values of the Banks and Torres Islands, to reflect on the changing climate and its implications for the people of TORBA.


The festival aims to celebrate culture, music, dance and other forms of creativity “to share stories and values of environmental sustainability in our cultural practices through the sounds and beats of our traditional instruments and songs, displays of house making, food preparation, outrigger canoes and traditional weaving. Come join us for an amazing 3 days.”

Check out the Facebook event page.

The Silence: Puanga | The story of Puanga

The Silence: Puanga is a collaboration between Parihaka Kuia Maata Wharehoka and Tracey Benson. For three weeks they worked and lived together, creating an installation for the Puanga Rau Kai festival at Parihaka in June 2019

Tracey M Benson || Bytetime

After an incredible time working together at Parihaka, Maata and I are now in Wellington to present a workshop and lecture at the School of Design at Victoria University. I have a few blogs to catch up on to fill in some of the details of how our project evolved – these will come in the next few days.

Last weekend at the Puanga Kai Rau Festival we celebrated the Māori New Year with about 250 visitors and whanau at Parihaka.

Maata did an incredible job organising the event with the support of many people to bring the weekend together. There were talks, workshops and some fantastic live music throughout the weekend. As always, we were led by ceremonial process with karanga, powhiri, karakia, korero and waiata marking each stage of the festival. Highlights included the lighting of the ceremonial fire, walking to the top of the hill at dawn…

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Torba Music and Arts Festival 2019, Vanuatu

The Torba Music and Arts Festival, Dung Verei: Sound of the Islands will bring together people from the Torres and Banks Islands to share stories, art and culture, as well as to focus on the challenges of climate change and sustainability for island communities.

Torba Music and Arts Festival
Torba Music and Arts Festival poster

Torba Day (2 October) is a public holiday in the Torba province, to celebrate cultural values and stories. Torba province is the most northern province of Vanuatu which includes the Banks and Torres Islands.

When: 30 September to 2 October 2019
Where: Motalava, Vanuatu
Contact: Sandy Sur, sandylsur at gmail dot com.

Exhibition at Untaming the Urban 2018, ANU Fenner School

Tracey M Benson || Bytetime

This is a reblog from the Untaming the Urban (UU2) website:

The Planet Spins (Liz Barker, Louisa Miranda, Tommy Dick), Dr Jeremy Mayall and Sebastian J Lowe, Michael Norris and C H R Θ M A (Kate Genevieve Vega and friends).
Curated by Tracey M Benson.

Three questions provided the context for discussion and the basis of the exhibition for the 2nd Untaming the Urban Symposium.

How can creative practice help humans see the urban environment differently?
What can a creative collaboration between humans and non-humans look like?
What can more-than-humans tell us about ‘place’?

These questions are well articulated in the works presented in the 2nd Untaming the Urban Symposium exhibition. Regarding the first question, this was definitely reflected in the venue for the exhibition – two meeting rooms in the RN Robertson building at the Australian National University.

Art is often bound by its…

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Photograph from Further Arts

Ambae volcano

Vanuatu is an island nation, made up of an archipelago of 83 islands and a population of 280,000 people. The Ambae residents number around 10,000. The recent activity of the Manaro volcano has produced thick ash and gas over the island, destroying crops and contaminating water supplies.

The situation in Ambae has been deteriorating in recent weeks, with little media coverage to highlight the urgency that the local population face.

Photograph from Further Arts - Ambae
Photograph from Further Arts – Ambae

TransArts Alliance partners Further Arts are making efforts on the ground with support from Sandy Sur from Leweton Cultural Experience, also a connection through Intercreate and SCANZ.

TAA advisor Kate Genevieve wrote a detailed article in the Independent about the crisis in Ambae titled The human dimension of evacuation. This is a very informative essay, highlighting the efforts that small organisations like Further Arts are making to help people on the ground.

Sadly yesterday it was confirmed that the relocation of the people of Ambae will start on the 1st June. Now it is known that the people will be evacuated from their homes permanently to the nearby islands of Maewo, Santo and Malekuta.

The Vanuatu Council of Ministers has asked Further Arts to help the islanders record their stories as they make this move. This is a huge invitation to continue the work that the NGO has been doing around deep listening and communication since the Volcano evacuations last September.

Please consider making a pledge of support.

Photo by Richard Hocking

Untaming the Urban 2018

TransArts Alliance is really excited to announce that we will be collaborating with Untaming the Urban to support the 2018 symposium at The Fenner School of Environment & Society at the Australian National University.

Since the first symposium in 2016, a number of projects have emerged and are continuing to take root and grow. This symposium is all about building on this work and connecting on the themes of urban sustainability and cross species habitation. Here is some of the synopsis:

The urban built environment has largely been considered and constructed as a human habitat although we share these spaces with many other species. Urban Growth is placing pressure on natural and modified habitats changing the way we cohabit with other species in cities, towns and suburbs. Retention, modification and recreation of habitats requires new perspectives about how we share these spaces with more-than-human others. Our collective wellbeing is at stake, both for allowing urban life to thrive and human wellbeing gained from the relationship with our domestic and wild biota.

Tracey will be looking after the cross-media for the event and curating the art exhibition. Up to the event we plan to share some of the research and activities leading up to the symposium.

More details coming soon.

SCANZ CBR 2017, Photo by Martin Drury


This is a very tardy post about an event that the TransArts Alliance led in organising in July 2017.

Through our partnership with Intercreate and University of Canberra’s Institute of Applied Ecology and the Inspire Centre, we created a 2.5 day workshop in Canberra to focus on the theme of Ocean*Energy From the Mountains to the Sea.

The overarching theme of Ocean*Energy would seem to be a strange fit for the inland city of Canberra. But if you look at the geological history of the city, it occupies what was once an inland sea which opens up a conversation about deep time and change over time. Close to Canberra is also the source of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, which have provided hydro-electricity to the region through the Snowy River Hydro-Electric Scheme.

The theme was deliberately open and provides for a diversity of readings on what ‘ocean’ and ‘energy’ can be. It can be a literal reading of energy in terms of electricity, renewables and solar or be defined as the effort, passion and focus of community to make positive environmental changes. It also allows for discrete discussions on place about islands, oceans, mountains and rivers. This forum provided the opportunity to look at areas like the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers and connect with existing research and knowledge about Country that could be contributed by participants.

Ngunawal Elder Wally Bell did a wonderful Welcome to Country as well as a healing ceremony at the opening and as part of the Water Blessing held at Lake Ginninderra with Loving Waters. Despite the cold, it was a beautiful ceremony followed by a group dinner.

Participants included: Dian Booth, Sandy Sur, Jacintha Bezgovsek, Desna Whaanga-Schollum, Josiah Jordan, Stephen Barrass, Julie Armstrong, Shelley Darling, Lee Joachim, Tommy Dick, Martin Drury, Siwan Lovett, Damian Wrigley, Kate Genevieve, Leah Barclay, Ian Clothier and Tracey Benson.

Pattern Recognition

This month we are very happy to share a great project which was part of Intercreate’s Media Art Projects. Pattern Recognition is a collaborative project which explores cultural exchange and the juxtaposition of technology and traditional materials.

Two of the most important themes in contemporary electronic arts practice are those of network communication and of engagement across cultural borders. Pattern Recognition is the result of a collaboration between Aroha Timoti-Coxon a weaver based in Hokitika and Vicki Smith an artist based in Harihari.

Pattern Recognition by Vicki Smith and Aroha Timoti integrated traditional tukutuku with QR coding
Pattern Recognition by Vicki Smith and Aroha Timoti integrated traditional tukutuku with QR coding

Together they constructed a work of contemporary culture, a QR code created through the woven art of tukutuku. While QR codes which can trigger the opening of web pages and web-based media may seem distant from traditional Maori weaving, the two have interconnections.

Both are forms of storytelling that are encoded in a formal visual language of positive and negative. The ‘binary code’ of weaving and the information held by a QR image are similar to the codified stories told through the patterns of tukutuku. In terms of digital heritage, it is acknowledged that an important historical step in the development of intelligent machines (which later became computers), was the Jacquard weaving loom.

The process of creating tukutuku can also be described as a conversation between two weavers, who pass the ara (thread) to one another from different sides of the panel. This is mirrored in the collaboration of Smith and Timoti-Coxon, and also in the connection of the QR code to the internet.

The site of the work in the Westland library highlights the link the library has to the World Wide Web as the biggest repository of ‘woven information’ [Tukutuku-Ao-Whanui]. Creating a working QR code at a scale of one metre high using tukutuku method, required experimentation as the demands for QR codes are precise.

Pattern Recognition by Vicki Smith and Aroha Timoti-Coxon
Pattern Recognition by Vicki Smith and Aroha Timoti-Coxon

For more information go to the project page on the Intercreate website.

Way of the Turtle

Way of the Turtle is a collaboration between Yorta Yorta researcher Lee Joachim and artist Tracey Benson, initiated in 2014.

Lee, Tracey and Martin Drury at WPP, Parihaka Pa
Lee, Tracey and Martin Drury at WPP, Parihaka Pa

It is a multi-dimensional initiative exploring interconnected themes of place, country, health, creativity, technology skills transfer, intergenerational and intercultural knowledge sharing. We are focused on how these interactions could benefit the Yorta Yorta community through creative collaboration. For example, one dimension of Way of the Turtle is the creation of art works that express these interconnected themes.

In January 2016, Lee and Tracey participated in a symposium and residency event in Aotearoa New Zealand – Water, Peace, Power (WPP) where they developed an installation at Parihaka Pa. The installation titled Exchanging Breath used a combination of story and song in Māori, Yorta Yorta and English with LEDs driven by patterns in turtle data from Yorta Yorta country. 

The sound element of the work presented vocals of Parihaka descendent Jo Tito and Yorta Yorta Elder Sharon Atkinson, combining Māori, Yorta Yorta and English languages and stories.

This project is seen as a prototype to create a larger work that would be the result of ongoing community engagement. At WPP Lee and Tracey collaborated with Nigel Helyer, Martin Drury, Andrew Hornblow and Allan Giddy to create the work.

Another dimension of Way of the Turtle is the research that underpins it.

Through the collaboration a longitudinal approach is being applied and a methodology has been created that is informed by transdisciplinary approaches, action research, phenomenology and user centred design. The Way of the Turtle is supported by key scientific researchers Professor Dave Griggs, Deirdre Wilcox and Professor Ross Thompson, who have long-standing research relationships with Lee Joachim and Yorta Yorta Nation.

In April 2016, Way of the Turtle was presented at Balance UnBalance , where Lee and Tracey shared updates of the project through blogs and online discussion via Twitter.

Also in April 2016, Lee and Tracey presented a paper at the Land Dialogues conference in Wagga Wagga. Their paper outlined in detail their methodology and approach to intergenerational knowledge sharing, building strong communities and creative participation should be published later in 2016.

You can find Way of the Turtle on Facebook.