Te reo Māori and the arts

07 Jul, 2016
 
Award-winning play, Purapurawhetū, will be performed for the first time in te reo Māori at two Auckland playhouses; Te Pou Theatre (6-9 July) and The Herald Theatre (13-16 July).

Award-winning play, Purapurawhetū, will be performed for the first time in te reo Māori at two Auckland playhouses; Te Pou Theatre (6-9 July) and The Herald Theatre (13-16 July).

Professor Tania Ka’ai, Director of Te Ipukarea, The National Māori Language Institute at AUT, says theatre is a rich domain for te reo Māori. Last year, it was Romeo and Juliet. Now, we have Purapurawhetū.

“Seeing theatre performed in te reo Māori, from a Māori world view, is such a powerful experience. And, it reaffirms te mana o te reo, the integrity, influence and status of the Māori language, within Aotearoa. There needs to be more theatre performed in te reo Māori. We need to fully occupy this space,” she says.

Purapurawhetū, written by Briar Grace-Smith in 1994, tells the story of a small community with a painful history, where the past, present and future converge around a young weaver as he works to complete tukutuku panels for a new marae.

This dark tale, described as ‘a new classic of New Zealand theatre’, is part of the school curriculum and won Best New Zealand Play at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards in 1997.

In 2000, Te Ipukarea commissioned Ngāti Porou kaumātua, Wiremu and Te Ohorere (Jossie) Kaa, to translate Purapurawhetū into te reo Māori. But, the rendered work lay dormant on the page for almost six years before being unearthed by producer Amber Curreen.     

“We were hoping to get a theatre to perform it when the translation was completed, but the timing just wasn’t right. The fact that it is coming to life on the stage now is a dream come true,” says Professor Ka’ai.

Director, Tainui Tukiwaho adapted the script to reflect his artistic vision and accommodate any variance in fluency among cast members.

“You can be creative, flexible and inclusive while still honouring te reo Māori. The most important thing is the quality of the language,” says Professor Ka’ai.

Attending an entire performance in te reo Māori may be a daunting prospect for some. But, much like opera, appreciation and enjoyment of the play are not wholly dependent on being able to speak the language.

“Purapurawhetū is a beautiful show. Immerse yourself in te reo Māori for an evening. Just let the story unfold. The actors will take you there.”

Purapurawhetū stars stage and screen actor, Rawiri Paratene, who toured the world with the English version of the play and is best known for his roles in Whale Rider and The Insatiable Moon.

Te Pou Theatre
44 Portage Road, New Lynn, Auckland
7.30pm | 6-9 July, 2016
Book at iTicket here.

The Herald Theatre (Aotea Centre)
50 Mayoral Drive, Auckland Central
7.30pm | 13-16 July, 2016
Book at Ticketmaster here.

Standalone performances in English will be held at Te Pou Theatre (6 July) and The Herald Theatre (13 July).

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