The Manu Project: Building a 21st century queer totem for Auckland Pride

The Manu Project has been conceived by London-based friends and collaborators Lyall Hakaraia and Emma Eastwood.

Lyall Hakaraia is a creative director and curator of Māori descent, who has produced publicly engaging work at art power houses such as the ICA and The Barbican and in the fields of Glastonbury Festival. He has designed and made wearable art pieces for popular artists such as Beyonce, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and has had his work shown in Italian, Paris and British Vogue, W magazine and Numero.

Emma Eastwood is a communications expert and activist at the international organisation Minority Rights Group, whose focus is to empower and fight for the rights of marginalised minority and indigenous communities worldwide.

Manu is the Māori word for a bird, a kite or a winged-creature. The Manu Project represents freedom, flight and the ability to publicly express yourself in whichever way you please without fear of oppresion, or discrimination.

The Manu Project aims to encourage and support a group of queer, indigenous and migrant young people to share their views on gender, identity and culture. Through a participatory workshop process we will guide activities that encourage trust and communication, with the participants defining their own gender and place within their community, and wider society.

The aim of the workshop will be to focus group discussions which will inform the making of a 21st Century bird totem that will be a physical and public celebration of queer indigenous identity. The totem will lead the Auckland Pride Parade, whose theme is Gods and Monsters, on 21st February 2015. The Manu Project totem will be part of a float organised by Mika Haka Foundation, with a central decorated truck and other totem-inspired outrider figures.

In return for their participation in the workshops participants will take away a greater confidence and understanding of their own and others’ gender and cultural identity. Through the making and display of a public totem art piece, they will not only have a creative fun time, but will also be engaged in a dialogue with the wider community and their peers.

During the workshop and leading up to the Pride parade, so that they can see how other artists engage an audience and speak about gender, we will take the group along to a workshop with performance artist Paul Soileau/Christeene.

So that we promote public engagement with the figure, we aim to display the totem in an Auckland gallery from 22nd to 27th February and then at Proud Party on 28th February and will define with participants the long-term life of the piece. Members of the group will be on hand to talk to visitors and festival goers about how they feel about the journey they have made. It will also be accompanied by a written piece outlining the objectives of the project. The totem will be worn by a dancer on the main stage at Proud Party, since it will be a wearable piece and responds well to movement.

The totem we produce and the group journey will be recorded through photos and film. The resulting short film will document a celebratory process and will highlight how a society can accept and encourage a variety of genders and cultures. This is an important lesson to share with other, perhaps less tolerant, cultures around the world.

The Manu Project is priviliged to be partnering with Mika Haka Foundation and Rainbow Youth, who will hosting us, giving us space and financial help with the project and putting us in touch with the young people we're so looking forward to working with. We cannot thank them enough for their support of the Manu Project. Mika will also act as a mentor during the whole discussion and making process.

Participants in the workshops must be at ease talking about gender and identity. We hope to have around 10 participants, aged between 18 and 25, who are diverse in terms of gender and ethnic and migrant backgrounds.

Our workshops will run from 4pm to 9pm from 16th to 20th February, with the first two evenings to be focused on discussions about gender and identity and the following days to focus on the making of the totem. We will use games and other theatrical and art therapy techniques to initiate sessions and build trust. 

We will ask the group to bring some materials and objects that can inform the design of the totem. The items they bring should reference and be significant to their identity, both culturally and personally. They will each be asked to talk about them. We will provide a brief to them explaining the logic of this process prior to the workshop.

The totem, which is attached to a wearable, lightweight, steel frame, will be anything up to 5 metres tall, and made from flax, tapa cloth, paper, and small light objects. These materials could be personalised with words / graffiti and artwork. They are then plaited and woven into strips that are attached to the totem. We like the idea of a text based piece of art, as to name an object is to own it, this reflects an objective of this project in self identification and the sharing of that identity. Also it is a clear and linear train of thought for the participants. 

Feeding the hungry! We will provide an evening meal for participants – we also see this as a group activity which builds bonds.

Bring it!

Photo: Manu totem for Auckland Pride 2015

Credit: Emma Eastwood

For more information contact:

Emma -

Lyall -


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Date: 21/01/2015


New Zealand


Culture and Tradition
Indigenous Peoples

Press Contact Information

Name: Emma Eastwood

Telephone: +44 (0)7952705780

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