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The Inspiring Women Making Waves in the Auckland Creative Scene

Life lessons and advice on defying norms and breaking convention from the city's female creatives.
By Lauren Harrigan
June 26, 2017

The Inspiring Women Making Waves in the Auckland Creative Scene

Life lessons and advice on defying norms and breaking convention from the city's female creatives.
By Lauren Harrigan
June 26, 2017

in partnership with

What does it mean to be a young, dynamic female working in the creative industry in NZ? Holly Sarah Burgess, Auckland-based photographer and stylist, has teamed up with Nike to explore what it takes. Slaying life isn't easy when you're young and trying to forge your own path through the Auckland creative scene — trying to make money off the back of your own creativity takes nous, hustle and character.

Burgess set out to document the essence of female creativity and drive in the new Rise zine, produced by Nike. She outfitted nine women in the new re-release Nike Cortez shoe, the first official track shoe the sportswear label ever made. Unique in design and concept, the shoe reflects the same principles of the wearers who champion their power to be different and be their best in every sense of the word. For the zine, Burgess sat down with the women to distil their life lessons and advice for defying the norm and breaking from convention. Here, we caught up with three of the women featured in the zine to hear what it takes to be your best, creative self in NZ.


A local dance legend in Auckland, Shakaiah Perez is a force of movement, a dynamic woman paving the way for young women in the city's dance community. Understandably, she works best to music, and believes that when it comes to sitting down and producing work "experimentation, comfort and environment is key."

As an indigenous artist winning world hip hop dance titles at competitions around the world — as part of the Royal Family crews from Parris Goebel's Palace Dance Studios, among others both in collaboration and of her own making — the dancer provides an important voice of representation for young female dancers starting out. This sense of mentorship stems from her own admiration for strong women in her life. "They constantly teach and inspire me to do more and be better at what I do. I admire the women who fought for equality for our people, and what they did for me to be able to do what I do now." For the dancer, lifting up your sisters and striving to make a difference according to your personal values are essential as you move through your own creative journey.


Katherine Lowe is best known as the brains behind, her blog that was recently put to bed after eight years, in favour of new, dynamic projects. Right now, she's a model booker with a new side project in its blooming stages: Rally, a blog co-authored with Leilani Momoisea.

Auckland is a sweet spot for creativity, Lowe explains. While there are fewer funding opportunities due to its size, the contacts are fantastic — everyone knows everyone. After a decade working in Auckland's creative industry, Katherine's got advice for those who want to follow a path similar to her unconventional one. First up: network authentically and take a genuine interest in whoever you happen to sit next to. Keep your mind open to new connections, and when it comes to looking for a job or freelancing, "try to be nice to and learn from everyone you meet — and produce great work (don't take shortcuts). I think people will always appreciate someone who is great to work with, who takes pride in the things that they do."


For Makanaka Tuwe, defining her career comes down to one thing: being a storyteller. This encompasses a broad range of projects, from self-publishing her poetry in Questionable Intimacy, founding the Afrika on My Sleeve movement and freelancing in content marketing, public relations and community development for not-for-profits. Within her work, "everything tells a story, from self-love and self-care to expanding the Africana diasporic and sprinkling black girl magic to governance practices and women empowerment." Working in Auckland, she juggles her multipotentialite life and tries to focus on "living and embracing the duality and varying elements" of her existence.

Sometimes she finds that there's a disconnect between mainstream brands in the city and the underground arts scene. "Auckland locals are surprised to hear, for instance, about certain scenes because what is branded the 'Auckland creative scene' in the mainstream is not an actual representation of the [real] Auckland creative scene. Where is the representation of the burgeoning scene? Where is the support for that scene?" Makanaka has no problem standing up and telling these issues to a wider audience. Coming from a lineage of orators, she's learned that "sometimes the best way to articulate is through storytelling." Don't be afraid to voice your thoughts and put your faith into the power of listening.

Read more from Auckland's creative women and see the full Nike NZ x Holly Sarah Burgess zine here.

Published on June 26, 2017 by Lauren Harrigan

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