Saturday, 30 December 2017

The End is the Beginning

NZIBBY asked me if I would be able to provide them with a Season's Greetings card to end 2017. I opted to depict my favourite summer destination - Waiotahe Beach, Opotiki.

Postcard. Copyright 2017 Zak Waipara

I also added in an appropriate Maori proverb, well-loved by my father, the poetic version of the English translation is also his.

The real deal! Copyright 2017 Zak Waipara

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Ōhakō Exhibition

Last year I was involved with an exhibition celebrating the Rongowhakaata iwi. Te Papa Tongarewa museum has for the last few years been hosting exhibitions from different tribal regions around NZ. Now it is the turn of the Rongowhakaata iwi. 

Copyright 2017 Zak Waipara

The first stage was local exhibitions at each of the marae around Manutuke and Gisborne, which I affiliate to all of them through my iwi connections, but our family was asked to contribute to Ōhakō Marae. The wharenui, Kiko-ote-Rangi (open unto the heavens), is unadorned by carvings, so there was some concern about what we could exhibit. The hapū decided that since many of the uri (descendants) were artists and musicians that we could show both traditional and contemporary examples of our craft. 

Copyright 2017 Zak Waipara

I decided my contribution could be a motion graphics piece to illustrate a short piece of oral history. It could also double as a very low-key proof of concept project, essentially using motion graphic techniques e.g. mixture of animated elements, kinetic type, to tell non-fiction stories, which is something I have become more interested in. The process involved listening to an hour’s worth of audio recorded at a whakapapa wānanga session, to find a short section that would work as a self-contained story, then transcribe that part of the audio. I edited the audio down further, to remove some extraneous sounds, and some tangential stories that might work better in another style. This became a three-minute piece, but also has the potential be developed more fully at a later stage (for instance, using those other excised stories). The style I adopted was based on modified carvings with an illustrative approach (flat rather than 3D), but also to have these located on a physical plane, mimicking the walls of a house. The various font treatments were meant to replicate tukutuku weaving panels. 

Copyright 2017 Zak Waipara

The second stage was to curate items from all the marae into a smaller exhibition at Tairāwhiti Museum, that opened September 15th 2016. The third and final stage for this exhibition opened at Te Papa in Wellington in September of this year. I was asked to contribute an animated project to this – which I will talk about in a later post!

Friday, 16 June 2017

IBBY Congress & Storylines 2016

IBBY (or the International Board on Books for Young People) “is a non-profit organisation representing an international network of countries and people, mostly volunteers, dedicated to bringing books and children together. It is the only international body working comprehensively for children’s books.” 

Design for the conference home page.

Many years in the organising, New Zealand was lucky enough to be the host country this year. The theme of this conference was “Literature in a multiliterate world” with three sub-themes - Global, local and indigenous literature, Diverse literary forms and formats, and Engaging readers. 

Opening ceremony. Photo copyright Zak Waipara

Given my own interest in all these areas, I was keen to be involved and was accepted to present a poster (a visualisation of the presentation I gave in the UK) and also asked to appear on a panel: Illustration Unbound: Narrative Art Across Genres, Age Groups, Cultures, and from Paper to Pixels and Beyond. It was chaired by Leonard Marcus a “historian, critic, exhibition curator, and lecturer in the field of children’s books and their illustration.” 

Poster display. Photo copyright Zak Waipara

Leonard took great care in chairing the panel – contacting us all ahead of time to consider the purpose and how best to make use of our time. I was lucky enough to meet him and have a chat beforehand as well. You can hear a Radio NZ interview with Leonard here

A treatise on the importance of picture books by Leonard Marcus.

My fellow panellists were Roger Mello (Brazil) and Bronwyn Bancroft (Australia). I was tasked with being a minder for Guest Delegate Bronwyn Bancroft, It was very heartening to hear about her work involving her Aboriginal community. Here is a link to an interview on Radio NZ. 

Some of Bronwyn's amazing work. Photo copyright Zak Waipara

Roger Mello discussed his children's work dealing with serious themes in his home country, such as child labour. It echoed a point raised by Witi Ihimaera in his rousing keynote address (a real call to action) on the first day of the conference, when he advocated for stories that tackled the pressing issues facing the next generation! He asked, "who is writing the story for the child whose island is about to be swamped by rising sea levels?"

Peter Dowling of Oratia Press (looking after Roger Mello at the conference) was in the front row of the audience and reports on the panel here, and the IBBY UK delegation also has a nice summary of the event and Katarina Kokanović from Croatia reports here

The best thing about any conference like this is being surrounded by a vast group of new and interesting people from all over the world who are passionately interested in this one area. For me it was personally inspiring, and I feel following on from the experience, all this time later, I am still coasting on a new wave of creativity. 

Giant pop-up book. Photo copyright Zak Waipara


The following week, I hit the road as part of Storylines 2016 Northland Tour, with Anne Dickson, Tim Tipene, Maria Gill and Lesley Dowding. What a fantastic group of people to be on tour with! It was a slightly surreal departure in Auckland seeing Henry Rollins in the hotel foyer in which we were gathered. As always we were shown the hospitality of Northland schools, and met with passionate teachers and creative and talented children. It all wound up with a Family Day event hosted at the Kaitaia library.

The amazingly designed Kaitaia library.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

TERNZ 2015 & HERDSA 2016

A belated update on two education based conferences I attended as part of professional development and ongoing research interests, in this case where teaching practice and curriculum design intersect with industry experience. These events are useful for providing insight and inspiration for new approaches to learning and teaching, especially because coming from industry into tertiary teaching presents challenges as well as solutions. 

Poster of Project-Based Integrated Learning approach.

 The first conference, TERNZ, was held at AUT in Auckland in November 2015. TERNZ focuses on “teaching and learning research in higher and tertiary education that is open to academics from all disciplines. The theme of every TERNZ conference is learning in higher education: our learning, our students' learning, our colleagues' learning.” The session at TERNZ were practical, very hands on and interactive in this regard. My colleague Nick Konings and I co-presented both a presentation and poster based on his work in designing the curriculum for a new Bachelor of Animation, and bringing together Project Based Learning and Integrated Learning under a term he coined: Project Based Integrated Learning (PBIL). Nick focused on the approach and I presented case studies of student work arising from this methodology. 

Poster of 'Making by Doing' approach to curriculum design.

The second conference, HERDSA, was held at Fremantle, Australia, with the theme for the conference being The Shape of Higher Education. Once again, myself and Nick appeared there co-presenting a presentation, and I presented a poster (co-designed with my colleague Lena Yaroshenko). This time the topic concerned a methodology of curriculum design employed by a number of staff in the animation faculty, in which lecturers work on projects in a similar fashion to students, as a means of testing the efficacy of the programmes being designed – which I referred to as Making by Doing. HERDSA was an interesting experience, since many of the topics that were raised by various institutions are things relevant and already being approached inside the philosophy and curriculum we were developing. The abstract can be viewed here.

Saturday, 25 June 2016


This post has been a long time coming.... Last year, on the 14th of October 2015, I attended The Comic Electric: A Digital Comics Symposium, which was held at The University of Hertfordshire in the UK.

Outside the University of Hertfordshire (c) Zak Waipara 2015

The Electricomics platform project was driven by renowned comic writers Leah (the Thrill Electric) and Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea), The Electricomics project was launched in May 2014, with funding from the UK's Digital R&D Fund for the Arts.

As the project neared the conclusion of its research and development stage, The Comic Electric symposium was held, led by Leah Moore and Daniel M. Goodbrey, to share findings, and expand discussion and debate around the field of digital comics research.  Leah's own digital comic project Sway is really quite impressive in taking advantage of the iPad's ability to detect the motion of the device and use it as a narrative component! Can't wait to see what else she might come up with...

Participants, including myself, presented papers across a wide range of topics that relate to comics scholarship and digital media. I presented my own research paper Otea: Transmission and Transmedia, based on my Masters research into transmedia comics and cultural transmission. Otea is a comic project for kids I have been working on for a while. Here's a nice concise summary of the talk itself, as reported by one of the attendees.

Leah Moore's post on Alan Moore's Facebook page

The Symposium was highly enjoyable and extremely informative. I won't attempt to cover the entirety of the proceedings but will mention briefly a few notable speakers.

My fellow panellists, Liz Dowthwaite and Vitor Blotta, covered Web Comic Communities and Comics as Journalism in Brazil, respectively. Liz's blog can be found here – she very kindly mentions my project. Her own topic is also her PhD research.

Matt Finch's presentation covered the possibilities offered by participatory style comic workshops working with different groups around the world, including time spent in Aotearoa NZ. It was great to see the contribution from a Christchurch librarian as well, never thought I would travel all that way to see te reo Maori comics in the UK...

Matt covered the Symposium on Twitter, with links to my slideshow.

Craig Smith, whose work on Motion Comics I quoted in my thesis, was the final speaker of the day and focused on Motion comics, including the Madefire platform pioneered by Dave Gibbons (of Watchmen fame). I chatted to Dave very briefly - it was cool to meet him in person.

I also had the chance to chat in person with Craig Smith on the 30 minute train ride back to London.

I went back to Hertfordshire Uni the next day to chat with Daniel M. Goodbrey (senior lecturer in Narrative and Interaction Design at the School of Creative Arts), to meet staff and talk about their teaching programmes, and to compare notes on our course back in NZ. Some of Daniel's interactive comic projects can be seen here –  he is really showing what can be done with the form.

It was seriously cool to fly to the UK and be part of a ground-breaking experience.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Comics, Libraries and Games

This is a post covering a range of events in the latter half of 2015 with which I was involved, including lots of collaborations with Auckland City Libraries for their comic book month. (My involvement came about through my association with Animation College.)

First out of the gate was a 'miniature ComicCon', dubbed LibraryCon, which took place on Sunday 6 September 2015 at Panmure Community Hall. LibraryCon featured cosplay, indie comics, pop culture crafts, and interestingly a group of budding game developers, including some reps from IGDANZ or the NZ chapter of the International Game Developers Association.

Zak, Dora and Jerwin © Zak Waipara

The focus for our group was to exhibit staff and student comic artwork, and included sketches for the public from Animation College students from lecturer Thaw Naing's Drawing Club (known as ACDC). Following on from this event, some of the comic work went up on display in the Central Library for the month of September.

Thaw sketching at the booth. © ZW

I was then invited to participate in The Panel (a comics discussion panel), chaired by Neil Curtis of Auckland University. This was a broad ranging discussion about diversity in the NZ comic 'scene'. This took place on 16 September 2015 in the Whare Wananga, Level 2, Central Library. It was a chance to hear about a new comic project - Three Words, an anthology featuring 60 female comic artists, that came about in response to a lack of representation of women in curated comic events.

Michel Mulipola, who had all the best lines, coined the phrase 'mansploring' to explain this inability to locate women comic creators! Thanks to the staff at Central Library, especially Courtney Ross, for organising all of the above.

Three Words postcard and a book gift from the Library. © ZW

Finally, I facilitated a Manga/Comic drawing workshop for children and teens at Mt Roskill Library, on Saturday 19th September. The real stars were the Bachelor of Animation students – Teahi, Joanne, Taylor and Michelle, who ran segments on specialised topics and provided their own customised resources.

Joanne, Zak, Michelle, Taylor and Teahi. © Mt Roskill Library

This was a good opportunity for our students to plan a lesson and practice presenting their ideas and communicating some drawing principles clearly – which helps their own learning as well.
Many thanks to Marion and Po Yee of Mt Roskill Library for hosting this event.

It's great that Auckland City Libraries celebrate Comic Book Month every year, and always come up with new ways to engage readers and budding writers and illustrators.

Examples of student Manga art and drawing principles. © ZW

Games Event

AUT #NZGDC15 – NZ Game Developers Conference, September 2015 

Then I attended my first conference devoted to games, and was really interested to see the diverse ranges of topics, in particular Serious Gaming (games for social change). Terry Fleming from Auckland University presented her version, COMETS (Collaboration on Maximising the impact of E-Therapy & Serious gaming), realised by Maru Nihoniho of Metia Interactive (who I would eventually meet in person at a Maori Digital Cluster Hui in December). This is a fascinating project looking at serious games for mental health and healing – well worth a look. Keep up with the project on Facebook:

The following day I participated in a Unity 101 Workshop at the Conference – it was amazing to see how quickly something resembling a game level could be built.

 © Zak Waipara

Sunday, 19 July 2015

A Positive Turn of Events

Copyright 2015 Zak Waipara

Just a quick catch-up on a busy year so far with a presentation on Comics and Transmedia for the monthly Transmedia NZ Meetup (15 April). Had some interesting questions and suggestions posed for the future direction of my Masters project in taking it out to the real world. This was followed by the launch of my comic, Otea: Rock of Ages, at Chromacon (18-19 April) where I renewed old acquaintances and made new ones too. Really enjoyed reading James Davidson's comic series Moa, it has a really timeless feel, as if it has always existed, almost like an historical artifact. My daughter enjoyed reading them as well and we await the next issue. Then, as part of the Auckland Writers Festival, I ran a workshop for 40 intermediate and secondary school students on creating mythical characters (13 May) and gave a presentation as part of the Family Day (17 May). It was great meeting and talking with the audience afterwards.

Copyright 2015 Zak Waipara

Finally I attended an awesome 1 day workshop with Andrew Gordon of Pixar (1 July). He also took some time out to visit the campus and featured as one of the guest speakers at Semi-Permanent 2015 (3-4 July). Being a practitioner undertaking research requires engagement with others, whether with an audience, or your peers or with those in industry. For that reason I find these events really rewarding in providing important touchstones.