CubaDupa was back in full swing, taking over the streets of Wellington this weekend with a jam-packed festival of discoveries and delights in every nook and cranny of the Cuba Street Precinct. The total programme for the 2023 arts festival represented a massive 246 acts and well over 1500 individual performers crammed into an unmissable 19 hours. An estimated 120,000 people moved through the site over the weekend, on par with the huge crowds seen at the last festival in 2021.
The calibre and diversity of artists on display, the creativity of the site decor and the immersive, exhilarating experience of “diving through the portal” came to fruition on Saturday and Sunday, with the weather holding out and the crowds descending en masse for the final weekend of the Wellington summer. The portal was opened to another world. Stages, bars, restaurants, parks and even one giant circus tent all filled with lucky revellers keen to catch jaw-dropping circus and aerial acts, dynamic DJ sets, music spanning every genre, roaming dance crews, art installations and show-stopping mass music ensembles.
Chief Executive of Creative Capital Arts Trust and Director of CubaDupa, Drew James says:
“We are so delighted by the crowds and amazing atmosphere that heralded CubaDupa back to the streets of Wellington. Even the weather played its part. The Mass Cuba Street Second Line Orchestra of 40 musicians was a fitting finale for a festival that featured over 240 acts, wowing our audience at every street corner. Thank you Wellington for letting us take over the streets and coming out to celebrate our city.”
The Wellington Airport Ngā Taniwha stage hosted an energetic Saturday evening performance from hip-hop artist Jujulipps alongside stand-out, packed performances from Sam Manzanza’s Mass Afrobeat Band, Koizilla and Anthonie Tonnon, to name just a few. The Ngā Toi o Te Aro stage transformed Te Aro Park to showcase Māori artists, te reo and tikanga Māori. Interactive Wānanga were held throughout the weekend and the stage featured 15 acts, and 18 hours of programming across the two days. The Garage Project Wild Workshop Stage presented a stacked line-up of women and non-binary artists to full audiences all day Saturday, and the solar-powered Havana Coffee Extravaganza Stage kept everyone dancing throughout the weekend in the Upper Cuba area. The Massey Creative Distraction Stage brought innovative acts like Silver-scroll winning band Lips and interactive dance crews such as BTD B*TCHES into the crowd.
The creative zones brought to life some otherworldly costumes and artistic imagination. Highlights included the Chamber of Reflection: a fully mirrored portal room by Silk Design that had people queuing to experience. The jaw-dropping suspension performances at the Aerial and Antics zone and the giant Mammoth circus tent filled with circus and cabaret oddities were welcome discoveries. An interactive game of battleships using baroque trumpets was held down Cuba Mall by The Queen’s Closet. BodyFX transformed attendees with colourful illusory body paint, with queues of the young and old alike winding onto Marion Street.
Parades of bollywood dancers, tubas, batucada dancers, and even a huge LED-lit dragon took over the streets for the weekend while onlookers grabbed a bite to eat at the more than 30 local food vendors at the CubaDupa Street Feast. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra played Spanish music to accompany diners at Liberty Restaurant and Everybody Eats brought Te Aro Eats, Uniting Kai Communities out into the street for a communal dining experience that ran in courses over the weekend. The energy of the crowds was upbeat and electric, with many staying late into the evening and coming back for round two on the Sunday afternoon.
Bianca Bailey, CubaDupa Festival and Music Producer says:
“The aroha given by our community, artists and crew towards this weekend has been overwhelming. It’s been beautiful to see such a diverse programme come to life after two years. I’m so grateful we are able to put on this celebration to continue to uplift and support artists.”
CubaDupa was held on Saturday March 25th and Sunday March 26th in a fully pedestrianised Cuba Precinct, in Wellington.