HŌHEPA WAITOA

He ngaru hokinga mahara

Nau mai e hika kia kuhu atu tāua ki ngā tai o Maumahara e papaki kau ana ki te one tapu o te kaiao me ōna tangi whakamānawa ki te taiao. Kia mea ake rā au i kōnei, tukua a Papatūānuku kia whakangā! Waiho a Ranginui kia māhorahora! E pupū ake anō ai te aroha me he ua kōpatapata ki te mata o te whenua e takoto nei, hā!

Aku tangi apakura ki ngā kura nui, ngā whītiki o te kī kua nunumi atu ki te pō. Taku tangi mōteatea e rere atu nei ki te maunga Tītōhea o Taranaki. E koro e Huirangi e, auē taku tangi kau atu. Ko koe tonu tērā te whakapeto ngoi mō te oranga o te reo ki roto i ngā whare tauiwi tae atu hoki ki ngā marae. Haere koutou ko tō tira haere, ko Nan, ko Wī Kuki, ko ngā mate katoa e pā kino nei ki a tātou. E kore rawa rā koutou e wareware i a mātou. Ka tō te rā ki a rātou, ā, whakawhiti ana te rā ki a tātou i roto i tēnei āhua o te noho piri ahi. 

Tīhei Mauri ora!

Bless The Child is a ‘Taniwha.’ Not the mean, terrible, flesh-eating monster that will devour anything in its path according to the misguided. But instead, I allude to the more traditional, more ‘Māori’ meaning of the word. ‘Taniwha’ –  kaitiaki, a guardian that ensures that things are maintained and order is kept throughout the land. Sometimes chaos can occur in the world, creating havoc everywhere, and thus the rising of ‘Bless The Child.’

After speaking with Hone and Mīria about the kōrero and its origins, I was already eager to dive into the belly of the beast. I am very fortunate to know Aunty Sue (Te Wai), Hone’s mother who after seeing the media and the portrayal of Māori as baby killers! She then turned to Hone and said, “You need to do something about this.” To me, this is where ‘mauri’ comes from when writing or creating. It is the essence of the kaupapa that you must always keep at the forefront. My fortune came to me in the form of kōrero from my pakeke and this becomes the fuel and the pulse behind the kaupapa that I throw myself into. In the space of three short years, I was thrust into rehearsal rooms with the likes of Nan, Hone, Mīria and many, many more. Learning from them and so many other Indigenous creatives in such a short space of time Gave me the confidence to warm the space and Bless The Child became one of those opportunities.

I was and am still a newbie to whakaari Māori so the only thing in my bag is a couple of degrees, some haka and reo with a few drops of tikanga, a smidgen of creativity and a few years of teaching. To say the least the main ingredient in my bag is my ‘Ao Māori.’

My project brief was to compose an oriori for the pēpī and a haka that pronounced the discontent of our Atua Māori towards our actions. I stepped into the room and immediately connected ‘mauri’ Māori by carrying out a humbling whakatau and at that moment I knew why my koroua and kuia were steering me down this path. It suddenly became more than being a te reo Māori playwright or director or whatever. The simple but in-depth words of the late Dr Wharehuia Milroy ringing clear in my ear, “E tama e Hōhepa, Whakamāoritia tō Ao!” Not to translate but to make your world Māori. Taku mana Māori motuhake! Made to weather any situation! Koroua like Wī Kuki and those early pioneers of yesterday provided a foundation for pillars that stand strong today like Tawata, Taki Rua, Te POU and Hāpai but to name just a few. Tomorrow is about weaving the tukutuku and painting the kōwhaiwhai panels that will guide, teach, shelter, warm and most importantly provide protection for those who wish to enter. Our apōpō is in our rangatahi and tamariki need to learn how to “Whakamāoritia te Ao.” And not only that but do it within the wider context of the modern world! Working on this kōrero with Tawata affirmed that very clearly.

Picture this – a show made by Māori for Māori but not a single hint of tikanga Māori exists in the process!? I don’t profess to know it all but something seems wrong with this picture. The words of my pakeke are more evident now than when they were first carved into my heart. 

I glanced around the rehearsal room and at every member there that day, all very accomplished in their respective fields. And me? The exact opposite I had not gone to Toi Whakaari or have a detailed CV spanning 10 or more years. Instead, I uncompromisingly bring Te Ao Māori with me, where ever, whenever and every other ‘ever’ you can think of. 

As I spoke I began to connect with the whare, as we weaved connections, as we journeyed through the kōrero! Mā te Māori anō te Māori e whakatika! We alone must guide the process and the mahi especially if the kōrero is ours! The good, the bad, all of it and so we must ensure that our kaupapa are convened in a context that is culturally correct and safe for all. 

‘Mauri’ is not a foreign concept in theatre whether the mahi is Indigenous or not. But what isn’t as evident is the ‘mauri’ of works in a tikanga efficient way. I presented karakia and mihi to connect to the ‘mauri’ of both the Hannah Playhouse and Q Theatre as well as ensuring the safe journey of those involved in Bless The Child and that their ‘mauri’ in turn was not compromised. I encourage all of us to care for our kaupapa in whakaari Māori like we care for our pēpī and mokopuna. 

Image Credits Matt Grace


Bless The Child by Hone Kouka, World Premiere Season 28 February 2018, Hannah Playhouse, New Zealand Festival, Wellington.

Tēnei au he uri nō ngā kāwai whakapapa o Porourangi, o Rongowhakaata. He mokopuna ahau nā Amiria Te Atamira Karaka rāua ko Henare Rangihuna Waitoa. Koia tērā te taha ki tōku Pāpā. Ko Mere Ruth Olsen rāua ko Ngārangi Katamaua Brown. Ko ahau tēnei te pōtiki o te whānau Waitoa e whakamānawa atu nei.

I whāngaia au e ngā hau o Te Tai Tonga i raro i ngā rangaranga o Kahukura. He tamaiti I ākona ki te reo Māori nōku i te kura tuarua o Aranui. Ki reira i toko ake te manawa nui ki te reo Māori, ki te ao Māori. Ka tau atu ōku waewae ki Ōtaki, ki Te Wānanga o Raukawa ki te whai i tukituki o te manawa. Ko te reo, ngā tikanga me te haka a Tāne-rore.

Rua mano mā ono te tau i tū ai taku kapa haka o Ngā Manu a Tāne hei waka kawe i ngā Taonga tuku iho.

He ika a Whiro nō te Panekiretanga o te reo Māori i te tau 2008.

Mō te tekau mā whā ngā tau ahau e whakaako ana ki Te Puna Wānanga ki Ōtautahi, ā, ka taka mai ki te rangi e tū nei kua whakatūria mai māua ko tōku ipo i tētahi pākihi e kīa nei ko Mahi Mahi Productions Limited.