Though the forms of artistic expression are very different for each of the collaborating artists we talk to in this article, Pango/Black demonstrates that the pursuit and aims of art excellence are universal. Visceral – invested – organic. Words used by these collaborators to describe each other, their work together on PANGO/BLACK and the way they understand and experience creative excellence. Influential and transformative in their respective creative fields, the result of Moss Patterson, Shayne Carter and James Webster’s combined skill stays with the viewer long after the performance is over, allowing the rare experience of genuine insight into Māori philosophical world view. It’s a work not to be missed should you get the chance.
Moss: I had a burning desire to do it, to try something really different. The inspiration came from a growing confidence and understanding I had attending wānanga with Ruatau Perez in Auckland. Ruatau is an acclaimed student of the late Pāpā Joe Delamere, a renowned Māori healer. Particularly, learning takutaku (recited verse) was a source of inspiration; I was sleeping on cliff tops and going into the bush. From these experiences I knew I wanted to bring together a diverse group of people and create a profound artistic work. It turned out to be Pango/ Black: devised theatre. A creation of response and exchange that evolved through our collaboration.
How did you identify the team? Who to approach? Moss: I relied on instinct. And I knew from my discussions with other artists, colleagues and friends, what projects are going on, where people are at with their thinking, their development, their knowledge and art. Moss says for electric guitar edge he couldn’t get past Shayne Carter. And he knew James Webster well and had worked with him previously, loved his art and talent.
James: Moss was the visionary, the one that pulled it all together. I’ve been associated with contemporary dance since the 1980s, at that time with Taiao Dance Company. I’ve known Moss for years and really liked the way he worked. The process of creating was organic. We watched the movement and responded to it. We responded to the dancers, to each other’s contributions. That was how the work developed. It was live so no two nights were exactly the same – though the intensity was always there. Moss understands and utilises kaupapa Māori processes, so the method provided the freedom to create and collaborate with the dance. People have to be invested and committed in the project for it to be successful. I think we all felt that.
Shayne: Everyone was really committed. That was it. Everyone on that show gave their all. It was honest, and raw, and real. Nothing was pretend, everyone really meant it. I think that’s it for collaboration success. And it was a process. The first stuff I tried didn’t work out. So we went back at it another way. I watched the show in silence. Then in my one day off from touring, I got up at 6am and tried again. That time it worked. When Moss initially approached me I was really keen to be involved though time was an issue – I was on tour. But the day after he called I was on a plane to meet up.
Moss: When I met Shayne at the airport, from the moment he got off the flight we were agreed: this is a significant and considered artistic effort – artists creating important new work, different from our own experience and experience generally.
It’s a group of really strong, really creative individuals. The vision we had was to create something together that we couldn’t have made on our own. This kept us in check, I think – in balance. While I was guiding the flow of action, everyone there was committed to doing something different, firmly rooted in Aotearoatanga. A big part of the art development was everyone involved feeling a strong need to get into and understand their whakapapa, where they’re placed; in themselves, their careers – and how kaupapa Māori brings something visceral and primordial to their art. These aspirations are captured artfully in Pango/Black and delivered directly to the audience – right to the gut. The cleverly designed wharenui in dark shadow, visceral light display (showing sinew and innards), expertly executed movement, accompanied by taonga puoro and electric guitar create an almost overwhelming artistic experience.
Leave nothing behind. You’ve got to be your best all the time.
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