Drone show to light up BOP sky

First Lights: Boodja Dwordak Wirn, meaning ‘Bringing Country’s Spirit back to Life’ was led by Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation in Western Australia. Photo / Jarrad Russell.

A drone show is set to light up the night sky this Matariki.

Set to take place at the Rotorua Lakefront on June 27 and June 28 at 8pm as part of the Aronui Indigenous Arts Festival, 160 drones will be programmed to form images in the sky, sharing the story of how Matariki is connected to the taiao (our environment).

Rotorua artists will record a story that will be broadcast live on speakers which will accompany the drones formations. Alongside this, will be Taonga Pūoro recordings by traditional artist James Webster.

Festival Trustee and arts veteran June Grant ONZM is inspired by the activation.

“Since time immemorial, the stars in the sky have literally given us direction. ‘Matariki’ is a modern manifestation of flying stars that illustrate aspirational themes and exciting imagery for everyone who will witness this magic light show”.

Ilona McGuire' animation at First Lights – Moombaki in 2021. Photo / Duncan Wright.

Mayor of Rotorua Tania Tapsell says Aronui’s activation is a welcome addition to the Rotorua events calendar for the Matariki long weekend.

“We congratulate Aronui for bringing this truly unique experience to Rotorua locals and visitors. This innovative show support’s Rotorua’s reputation as a world class destination, and importantly a strong home of Māori culture.”

The show is titled, ‘Matariki’ and has been created by AronuiI, supported by First Lights | Perth WA. Drone shows have grown in popularity internationally, although the trend is still to take hold in New Zealand. ARONUI is an Indigenous all-arts festival that traditionally runs across the September period.

This year, the board decided it was time to broaden their horizons and bring arts to the community outside of the September period. Founding Festival Director Cian Elyse White says the drone show is an example of how traditional concepts can be accessed through leveraging new, digital mediums.

Cian Elyse White.

“Our show has been guided by local tohunga reo, Mataia Keepa, who has made Dr. Ahorangi Rangi Mātāmua aware of this show's existence. It is a collaboration of story, light, sound and Matariki themes that will be accessible to all ages”.

First Lights Artistic Associate, Ilona McGuire (Noongar Bibbulmun & Kungarakan language tribes Western and Northern Australia), says that collaboration and connection is at the heart of this activation. 

“Learning the story of Matariki and collaborating as artists (the oldest and youngest indigenous peoples of the world) has been the beating heart of this project - a beautiful opportunity for cross-cultural connectivity.”

The activation will be free of charge, and will take place at 8pm alongside the Rotorua Night Markets which will be situated at the Rotorua Lakefront during Matariki from 5.30pm onwards.


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