Feeling A Connection with Māori Theatre

After seeing my first Shakespeare at The PumpHouse age six I dived into theatre, with a passion, seeing as many productions as I could.

In 2016 I made the leap into acting and working behind the scenes. I’ve now begun a degree in costume and production design and hope to work in theatre in the future.

When I was young I would be with my family or at my marae frequently, however this changed when my parents separated, and we gradually grew apart. Since then I have been in a sort of limbo, trying to connect to my Maori culture but finding barriers in place preventing me from taking up a lot of opportunities.

“To be Maori and see Maori stories presented by Maori people makes me feel a sense of pride.”

I’m proud that this year, The PumpHouse Theatre, where I work, is presenting a year-long season of uniquely Maori theatre.  With Maori theatre so close to me I have a place where I can feel and express my culture with others through theatre, a passion of mine.

The season has included performances of Shot Bro, Rob Mokaraka’s personal story about depression and redemption; Heaven and Earth – Rangi and Papa, a magical glow-in-the-dark Matariki puppet show; and Te Rerenga – The Flight, the world’s first Maori rock-art puppet show.

Te Rerenga felt like home to me, the sharing of knowledge, music and whole families joining in really made this show as fantastic as it was.

I connected to Shot Bro on a bit of a different level. Within Maori families, particularly mine, the presence of mental health related illnesses is something rarely touched upon, more often dismissed than discussed.

Rob brought his struggles to the stage, and held a korero afterwards with a whole room of people – digging deep and sharing things they once thought they couldn’t. It meant so much to me and showed that there is potential for more sharing and expression to be communicated by Maori through art.

Being able to come along to a workshop and learn about Harakeke on a Saturday morning and bring home pieces that I had made felt amazing.

To be Maori and see Maori stories presented by Maori people makes me feel a sense of pride. It sparks my creativity and pushes my mind into thinking of all the ways theatre can grow and develop using Maori influence.

“The experience is personalised to the audience and woven with traditions and customs. It is warm and nurturing, like family.”

For me, Toi Takapuna provided a place close to me where I could feel Maori, and surround myself with others sharing my culture. I don’t have access to any place for that in my personal life. I didn’t need to be fluent in Te Reo to come and see these shows, I didn’t need to be a history expert, I just needed to be open, to want to learn, and to listen.

The environment of these shows cannot be compared to regular theatre.

They aren’t ‘typical’ in the sense of turning up, seeing a nice show and heading home. Instead, you are welcomed and made a part of the show.

The experience is personalised to the audience and woven with traditions and customs. It is warm and nurturing, like family, with the sole objective of sharing stories and history together, presented in such a way that they can be enjoyed by anyone.

Afterwards everyone can stay and korero, share kai and digest the performance – audiences and performers together.

Integrating this culture into our community events and theatre should be encouraged and Toi Takapuna is a great step towards that goal.

Coming up next as part of Toi Takapuna is Kōrero Pūrākau – Maori Storytelling.  I’m so excited to be able to experience the legendary Rawiri Paratene acting as mentor, director and storyteller alongside young people just like me, working together to create a brand new, and uniquely New Zealand, piece of theatre.

I truly believe that anyone would benefit from coming to see this show. It is exciting, beautifully told and an experience like no other in the world.

Aria is from Ngati Raukawa and her marae is Tangata Marae, Matamata. She is a costume designer and actor, studying production design and management at Unitec, and works in The PumpHouse Box Office.

Kōrero Pūrākau is a short season of Maori storytelling in English and te reo Maori for tamariki and rangatahi at the PumpHouse in Takapuna, from Thursday September 6 to Saturday, September 8.


Post Credit, The Big Idea.

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