Acting Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni ends a tough week by attending not one, but two plays made by and featuring an all wāhine Māori cast.
Days after she had to deal with one of her Labour MPs defecting, acting Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni ended the week by attending two plays featuring an all wāhine Māori cast.
Holding down the fort while Chris Hipkins was in London to attend King Charles’ coronation, Sepuloni, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage, took time to see Witi’s Wāhine, produced by Hapai Productions and Auckland Theatre Company, and Kōpū, produced by Te Pou Theatre. Both shows opened in Auckland on Thursday.
On a rare occasion, two separate plays made by and featuring an all wāhine Māori cast and produced by two major theatre companies opened on the same day with an extended season.
Sepuloni says she was looking forward to supporting both plays after she had a tough week having to deal with and face questions around former Labour MP Meka Whaitiri defecting to Te Pati Māori.
“At the end of a hard week, there was nothing better than to watch mana wāhine smash it on stage. It was good for the soul. It was a great time to reflect, laugh and just breathe,” she says.
Although both plays elevate the voices of wāhine Māori, they are very different in their tone and style. Witi’s Wahine, written by Nancy Brunning, brings to life the favourite Māori wāhine characters created by esteemed novelist Witi Ihimaera. Meanwhile, Kōpū is a contemporary, hilarious, and at times raunchy, perspective on contemporary wāhine Māori.
Sepuloni says she supports more theatre where Māori women are the main focus.
“Wāhine Māori stories resonate in so many ways. As a Pasifika woman, I feel a natural affinity. We share many of the same struggles but also many of the same strengths.
If wāhine Māori stories aren’t represented in our theatres, then the stories being told on our stages are not a true depiction of our nation, and wāhine Māori are deprived of the opportunity to see themselves on stage and take inspiration from that.”
Tanea Heke of Hapai Productions and co-producer of Witi’s Wāhine says she endorses Sepuloni’s message of seeing more wāhine Māori stories on the stage.
“Here’s to a future where this isn’t a special occasion but just the way things are. It will be wāhine Māori who will take the lead and showcase our stories and narratives.”
Amber Curreen, director of Kōpū, says they are standing on the shoulders of past wāhine Māori storytellers who have paved the way.
“This is a legacy of Māori storytelling that has been laid down by powerhouse wāhine over the last 40 years which we are proud and determined to continue.”
Witi’s Wāhine is currently playing at the ASB Waterfront Theatre until May 20. Kōpū is currently playing at Te Pou Theatre, Corban Arts Estate, Henderson until May 14.