Our Wellington

News | 25 May 2021

All in the name of art

Suzanne Tamaki is a creative producer at Wellington City Council, loves art, and has recently put her favourite cousin’s head in a pickle jar. We sat down with her to talk life, work, and art.

Suzanne Tamaki and her son, Rameka, in traditional Maori dress, leaning back against a punga fence.

How long have you been at Council and what do you do

I’m the Creative Producer for Events and for the last eight years I’ve produced events like Waitangi Day and Pasifika Festival, plus I also offer support and advice for community events, helping people with things like licencing, funding, equipment and venue hire. 

My favourite thing is programming and finding new talent. I specifically focus on Māori performers, singers and artists. It’s fantastic that Council has resources to support this. 

COVID-19 really affected the industry. A lot of businesses are now out of work and our team made a huge effort to pay companies in advance for their services to help them through a tough time

The good thing is New Zealanders are desperate to get back out there and will go to any kind of social interaction, so we are helping resurrect the events industry.  

One thing you’d wish for at work…

I wish we could help artists who are great performers but know zero about invoicing or general administration. We need a service to support them so that they can ensure they get paid and promoted better

Tell us about the real Suzanne

I am born and bred Wellingtonian and attended St Madeleine SophieSchool and Wellington East Girls CollegeI moved to Auckland in the 1980s and in the early 90s founded a collective called Pacific Sisters.

In 1996 I moved back to Wellington and studied at The Learning Connexion. started working as an events producer for Te Papa in 2004. I once organised 50 events in one month for Matariki! One of my favourite events was the Seven Sisters and Seven Brothers nights with seven different Māori performers from all around Aotearoa representing emerging and established stars in the music world.

I’ve activated museum spaces with Pacific Sisters and arts collective Savage KlubI’m the Wellington area liaison officer for Maori wardens and I’m currently studying for a Masters in Fine Arts at Massey University. My thesis is on fabricating activism with a focus on costume as a mechanism to narrate social and political change. want to challenge the status quo and the world view on Māori culture.  

What do you do in your spare time?

I play guitar and sing. I love karaoke and used to run an event in Zoo Bar, Newtown. In factI’ve won quite a lot of alcohol-related prizes for my renditions of Adele and Amy Winehouse. 

My son is a lot better than me... He’s just graduated in classical guitar from the New Zealand School of Music. 

I have a huge love of art and will go anywhere with free cheese and wine. Usually gallery exhibitions and museum openings

A jar with a photograph of a male face inside, with moko tattoos and leaves at the top near the lid.

I'm currently a finalist in the Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Awards with my submission of photograph of my cousins head in a pickle jar. The work, entitled ‘Cultural Preservation’, highlights a Māori tradition - mokomokai” - of preserving and displaying decapitated heads. However, I hasten to add, my cousin is very much alive and aware a portrait of his head is in a jar, all in the name of art.