18 Nov 2020

NUKU – the movement celebrating indigenous women

From Afternoons, 1:26 pm on 18 November 2020

A social enterprise is celebrating indigenous wāhine of Aotearoa through kōrero paki or storytelling.

Qiane Matata-Sipu

 Qiane Matata-Sipu. Photo: supplied

NUKU is on a mission to profile 100 wāhine and it has just reached a major milestone - releasing its 50th profile.

Qiane Matata-Sipu is the founder and director of NUKU.

She told Jesse Mulligan she came up with the idea in 2018 when she became pregnant with her daughter.

She says she wanted a way of amplifying the voices of indigenous women through media and art that could help shape the way her daughter viewed wāhine while growing up.

Each wāhine is profiled in a podcast and photo shoot, with the goal of creating a book featuring all the wāhine that can be launched Matariki next year.

Matata-Sipu says she already seen the value in the project.

“The feedback that I get from people is really what helps us all keep going in this kaupapa. I’ve had wāhine say words like life changing to me, which is such a huge compliment to all the wāhine who share their stories.

“Over the lockdown period we had women getting in touch, saying that they were teaching their children, they’re home schooling their children, using NUKU, their children were writing reports on who these NUKU women were and what their all about. It’s turned into a movement that I never expected it to, I looked at it initially as a project of 100 women and it’s actually become a community of indigenous women who are sharing and thriving off each other. I’m really proud of that, but I’m also proud that it’s changing the narrative for future generations so that children like my daughter can grow up in a space where this information and these women are so accessible [that] it’s normal.”

Matata-Sipu has profiled some of the most respected and regarded indigenous women both in New Zealand and abroad, including academy-nominated film director/producer Chelsea Winstanley, fashion designer Kiri Nathan, dual rugby-rugby league player Honey Hireme-Smiler.

“Even though they are well known, it’s about finding out who they as wāhine, what’s the stuff we don’t know about them. For Kiri, she grew up in a motor cross family.

“For Chelsea, she talked a lot about a car accident that almost ended her life and what it was like growing up as a young mum.

“Honey Hireme-Smiler talks a lot about nursing her mum through cancer and now raising three teenage boys with her wife… we get a real insight to parts of their lives that we had never been exposed to before.”

Another favourite interview of Matata-Sipu’s is Rangimarie Pomare – an educator running a small school in the far north that aligns its term with the maramataka – the Maori learned calendar.

“She doesn’t necessarily run her school by the terms, they don’t have a holiday in summer because in a Te Ao Māori world of view you rest in the winter, so they have their longest holiday period over the winter, and in summer time, while everybody else is off on school holidays, they’re at school. Their school curriculum focusses on hunting, gathering and learning mathematics and science through those real indigenous practices.”

Matata-Sipu said inspiration for the book came from her research on the project – noticing that there wasn’t a book about indigenous women that was written, owned and published by indigenous women.

“There’s a lot of books about women, but they’ve been made by big publishing companies, they’ve been photographed by men and I just want to create something that is a true reflection of Tino rangatiratanga that shows us that we as wāhine have no barriers that can stop us from what it is we want to do.”

Information about NUKU's Boosted campaign is here.