Rachael Maza grew up in a fertile time of black politics in Australia, born just a few years before the 1967 referendum in which Aboriginal people in Australia went from being state wards to being considered citizens.
“It’s quite a profound moment in history.”
Before long, her father and others in the political community established the first black theatre, “using theatre as a political tool”.
Black theatre was born out of the political fire, Maza says.
“That legacy that I grew up with is absolutely at the heart of everything I do.”
The challenge now is making theatre accessible.
There’s been a very long history of well-intended white allies making aboriginal work, Maza says.
And while it was important that people with privilege use it to create opportunities for Mob stories to be on stage, she says Aboriginal people need to be driving the narrative and shaping how the stories are told.
“It makes sense that to be able to tell the story particular of a minority culture, that it can’t be someone from the dominant culture telling that story, they don’t have that experience and they come with a huge bias.”
Maza is co-director of Black Ties which, together with Australia's ILBIJERRI Theatre Company and New Zealand's Te Rēhia Theatre Company, takes the conventional wedding rom-com and gives it a First Nations twist.
But with various aunties, uncles and cousins all assembling for the 'brownest wedding ever' will it be a match made in heaven or an almighty culture clash?
“I would hope that at the heart of this story…we don’t shirk away from the complexity and the flawedness of our characters, they are extremely flawed and complex…in fact racism between the two Mobs, the Aboriginal and the Māori, we don’t shirk away from at all.
“But ultimately the message is, their shared values of love and family, in fact the shared values of all humans on this planet of love and family as the thing that binds us, the thing that makes us who we are as humans…is ultimately at the heart of the story.”
Black Ties is showing as part of the Auckland Arts Festival at the Aotea Centre from March 11-15