Stories of wāhine Māori see the light of Auckland stage this weekend

2:25 pm on 19 June 2021

Wāhine Māori hope to place the experiences of Māori beneath the spotlight as they take centre stage this weekend to celebrate Matariki.

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Cian Parker in Sorry for your loss. Photo: Kelsy Scott

Two shows at Aotea Centre in Auckland from today until Monday are written and performed by Māori women.

Directed by Laura Haughey, Sorry for your loss is written and performed by Cian Parker, while Barrier Ninja was devised by Fran Kewene and is performed by Julie Edwards.

The challenges faced by Māori within hauora and the current health system are explored in the documentary theatre work, Barrier Ninja.

An associate professor in the department of preventive and social medicine at Otago University, Kewene based the play on interviews she conducted with patients and health workers.

"The kakano or seed that stimulated this work was really my desire to want to share our communities' stories with health professionals and create a change in our health professionals and what they did and how they were engaging with our Māori community," Kewene said.

"What really gets me is that the system doesn't change - our people are still dying.

"What I find when working with our community is we celebrate them as Māori through their words, and hopefully through their words influence people to think differently."

Performer Julie Edwards said the verbatim style of the show meant she needed to surrender herself as a performer to serve her community.

"I watched all the recordings for a long time and studied their gesture, physicality and vocal intonations."

There had been a strong focus on incorporating tikanga and mātauranga Māori.

"The way that we work, especially with Barrier Ninja, is we try to keep within that kaupapa of the theatre marae and making this space safe and sacred.

"And also, as wāhine Māori too, keeping that awhi - big arms around the audience and us."

Sorry for your loss is based on an autobiographical account of a young woman growing up in Kirikiriroa Hamilton in the 1990s.

Parker said Māori women were under-represented in the arts and it was inspiring to have a chance to play the kind of wāhine she grew up with and loved.

"I've often played Pākeha that lived probably 200 years ago or an ethnic role," Parker said.

She hoped audiences would see themselves in some aspect of the show and that they could feel seen.

The plays are included in a double bill at Herald Theatre this weekend.

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