On the Level: Matariki Williams

Here it is, the first on the level. As co-founders, Nina and I will go first, starting with me. With tuakana we profile established people in the sector who have helped or influenced us in various ways, and through this we came to the realisation that our peers, emerging, establishing, whatever you want to call them, also inspire and influence us. We chose on the level as the title because we're on the same level as each other. But also, our peers are a bunch of GCs and on the level is a more polite way of saying that. As Tusk was always envisaged as a platform for people at the establishing level, it made sense to hear what we our peers had to say. Tū mai tātou, we stand together.

At Art in the Dark 2014 in front of a work by Bright Calm City.

At Art in the Dark 2014 in front of a work by Bright Calm City.

In five words, describe your place in the sector.

Connecting and collaborating with people.

What first drew you to the sector i.e. Do you have a particular memory of a moment that got you hooked?

I touched on this in my Barriers to Access piece where I talked about some pivotal moments in my schooling. However, I think the biggest attraction in the sector for me has to be the relationship between people and stories so in this respect, what got me hooked is a feeling akin to what I feel when I’m around my whānau. There are no better experiences for me than those that involve being with my siblings, cousins, aunties, uncles, Nans and Koros at our marae. Sitting around the table and hearing my Koro regale us with kōrero is a really hallowed time for me, and the environment it is told within, whether it be at our marae or at our homestead, is really shaped by the kōrero that is shared. It is only as I type this that I realise, this is the same feeling I have when I am in the backrooms of museums and archives: I can feel the stories and the people.

What challenges have you faced in your career so far?

For one thing, finding a job was difficult but I was lucky to be in a position where I could be picky as I was at home with my kids while I looked. Job seeking really illustrated to me how much you need to do to be able to stand out in the sector. Most of my friends have undergrad and postgrad degrees as well as a lot of experience yet still struggle to find work that is fulfilling and well-paid, let alone to then also feel like they can affect positive change in the sector. This of course, was part of the impetus behind wanting to start Tusk, we wanted to create a platform for ourselves and our peers to engage with the sector.

Another interesting aspect I see in the sector, and one that I have experienced at every step, is the incredibly inspiring women who have gone before me. It is no coincidence that the people featured in tuakana so far have predominantly been women as women are overrepresented in the sector, and so many of these women have been really present in my career thus far. However, when I last checked, women were underrepresented in upper management and board roles. This is not surprising and that really sux. Conversely, it was mentioned at the Human Rights conference last year that Māori are underrepresented in the sector so there are real diversity issues at hand which need to be addressed. 

This sector is also what you make of it, there is no other option to advance when you’re making shit pay and are expected to ‘do it for the love of it’ then to be innovative and create your own path. Trying to figure out how to do that though, can be tough. If you wanna chat about it, waea mai!

Has anything or anyone in particular provided you with support?

So many people, to list everyone would take up the whole page but they know who they are. In terms of the support given, this has taken many forms and I think established people need to realise that authentic engagement with future members of the sector who are studying or trying to get a foothold in the sector can be hugely encouraging.

What has been really formative though are the friendships I have made and the conversations I have with these great people who keep me more engaged than anything else in the sector. They expand my mind until it hurts, and for that I am really grateful.

What do you think people at your own level (emerging etc) bring to the sector?

Most of the tuakana contributors mentioned the energy that emerging people bring to the sector and I agree that we bring vigour, innovation, and creative ideas. But in harnessing this, I think there needs to be lateral, widespread application of this energy. Are you creating strategy? Great, get some input from the people who will be in your position in 20 years. Trying to streamline your workstreams? Great, ask the people in the teams affected how they think their jobs could be improved, including those waaay down at the bottom of the chain. I think anything less than that has the potential to underestimate the potential held by the emerging workforce.

What is a positive change you would like to see in the sector?

Given what the sector is built on, people and stories, I think these aspects of the sector need to be reflected at each step. Workplaces need to be mindful of what is going on with their employees, and listen to them. I think investment in people goes a long way and makes people happy to be on board.

The sector would very obviously benefit from more financial input. The arts are taken for granted, expected as a given. Creative New Zealand constantly publishes reports on how the arts positively affect society so, a positive change I would like to see is a brazenly, forward-thinking council or government to take the research and create new and exciting avenues for people to access the arts in Aotearoa.

What is your karaoke song?

Nina and I sing a mean duet (and are always looking for more suggestions FYI). I also love to belt out some Bad Romance. Probably the best karaoke experience I had was when an argument had broken out in the room so I put on La Bamba to diffuse the situation, it worked. Thank you School C Spanish!

 With that in mind (from one of my childhood faves)...