Rachel Mann was the recipient of the Southland Art Society "Best Relationship to Theme" Award for her digital print "Oreti". All three works featured in the exhibition are from Mann's television series Tale Enders. Tale Enders is the culmination of Mann’s Master of Design research completed through Massey University in 2015. Mann’s research “Southern Youth: Evoking Southern Teenage Identity Through Character Design for Animation” was driven by Mann’s desire to see more local, social and cultural issues pertinent to young people living in regional New Zealand reflected in the animated content in mainstream media. In addition to acknowledging that currently 99.5% of children’s animation shown on New Zealand television is made offshore, Mann points out that the characters depicted are overwhelmingly white, heterosexual and male. Tale Enders, in contrast, is a web series conceived to reflect the diversity of youth in respect to, for example, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation and raise challenges associated with being a teenager in Southland – the “tale end” of the country.
Rachel Mann is a tutor at the School of Visual and Screen Arts at the Southern Institute of Technology. Mann moved to Invercargill in 2007, she says:
“I had never even been to the South Island. My knowledge of Invercargill and Southland was limited to scenic posters in the London underground and beer advertising. If I was asked what the culture and community of Southland looked like, I would have simply repeated the stereotypical view of the community as masculine, rugged, tough and silent Caucasian ‘Southern Men’, profoundly heterosexual and where women did not seem to exist. What I found was a community half torn between madly holding on to its stereotypical toughness and chucking this to the wind in the hope for a more open and multicultural future. These experiences inspired me to develop a project integrating community knowledge with my skills as an animator/educator to create stories and characters that could function as vehicles for the community to engage meaningfully in telling their own local stories.”
Episodes follow 6 teenagers Hamish, Lucy, Isabella, Samuel, Amelia and Daneesh as they struggle with and celebrate what it means to be young Southlander. Mann is seeking funding for the pilot which focuses on Hamish – a 16 year old often referred to as Ham-dog or Hamster by his friend Sam. Hamish lives on the family farm in Dacre and suspects he might be gay as he has strong feelings towards his friend Daneesh. Hamish is sensitive, interested in cycling and badminton, and plans to one day turn the family farm organic. In Episode One Hamish is grounded and must decide whether to defy his father by sneaking out of the house to attend Diwali celebrations with Daneesh. To find out more and stay informed on this exciting local initiative check out www.taleenders.com.