News | 26 October 2022
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Make Visible Te Whanganui-a-Tara celebrates rainbow communities of Pōneke

Make Visible is an exciting, community-led project designed to grow support, create positive change and increase awareness for rainbow communities.

The Blossoming by artist Shawn Wimalaratne in collaboration with Shannon Novak, and commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The Blossoming by artist Shawn Wimalaratne in collaboration with Shannon Novak, and commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

With the highest rainbow population in Aotearoa New Zealand, Wellington City Council is supporting this project to help improve the mental health and well-being of the capital’s rainbow communities.

Rainbow communities experience disproportionally higher rates of anxiety, suicide, and depression than the general population in Aotearoa New Zealand. Make Visible: Te Whanganui-a-Tara aims to help lower these rates for rainbow communities in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (and beyond) through increased visibility of and support for these communities.

Developed by artist, curator and activist Shannon Novak, the project will include artistic interventions in public spaces, exhibitions, performances, workshops, an online platform for rainbow communities to share experiences, and help grow local archives of Te Whanganui-a-Tara’s rainbow heritage.

The project has already begun with The Blossoming by artist Shawn Wimalaratne in collaboration with Shannon, and commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The work is on two floors of the PwC Centre and acknowledges and celebrates LGBTQI+ communities and seeks to amplify LGBTQI+ BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour), trans, and intersex communities.

Wellington Mayor-elect Tory Whanau says this project represents our collective responsibility to support the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of all residents – especially those from our more vulnerable communities.

“Our city has increasingly diverse communities, and all Wellingtonians have the right to work, live and play in our city, free from harassment, bullying, and discrimination.

Make Visible Te Whanganui-a-Tara is an innovative way of working with our rainbow and BIPOC communities, that allows them to be heard and seen in ways that work best for them.

“We also hope this visibility will increase public support to create positive and meaningful change for rainbow communities, so they can feel safe and sound in their hometown,” adds the Mayor-elect.  

The Make Visible kaupapa aligns to priorities and outcomes within two of the Council’s key strategies.

Tūpiki Ora Māori Strategy ensures the voices and perspectives of our rangatahi, takatāpui and whānau hauā/ tangata whai kaha are listened to, valued and embedded in decision-making at all levels.

A key focus area in the Aho Tini 2030 Arts, Culture, and Creativity Strategy is Aho Tangata, creating connected, engaged, and inclusive communities through diverse arts and cultural expression.

The Blossoming by artist Shawn Wimalaratne in collaboration with Shannon Novak, and commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The Blossoming

Shannon is the founder and director of the Safe Space Alliance, a LGBTQI+ led non-profit organisation that aims to help people identify, navigate, and create safe spaces for LGBTQI+ communities worldwide.

“A safe space is a space where LGBTQI+ communities can freely express themselves without fear. It is a space that does not tolerate violence, bullying, or hate speech towards LGBTQI+ communities.

“It began as an artwork at The Suter Art Gallery in Nelson in response to the growing need for clearly identifiable safe spaces for LGBTQI+ communities. The gallery was the first safe space as verified by the Safe Space Alliance.

“The idea then spread to the surrounding community in Nelson including the Nelson City Council, who became a verified safe space, then funded a light art project that projected the Safe Space Alliance logo onto buildings around the city.

“The idea extended to other cities in New Zealand with the help of Auckland’s Britomart Group, then went international,” says Shannon.

Wellingtonians, organisations and businesses can get involved in the Make Visible Te Whanganui-a-Tara mahi in a number of ways; help grow the Safe Space Alliance network by adding your organisation/business to the online directory at no cost, suggest or research places of rainbow heritage in Wellington, help create/grow local rainbow archives, provide space and engage in visual activations, attend rainbow workshops, volunteer time at local rainbow organisations, and share their personal or whānau stories.

Shannon is in Wellington this month for this mahi, working closely with Pōneke’s rainbow communities and organisations, and invites anyone interested in this project to connect with him.