Wahine Works wants to take
WAIORA TO WELLINGTON
We need your help to get there!
Every now and again a theatre production pops up out of nowhere and becomes a phenomenon. Sometimes it can come from the most unlikely places. The Wahine Works production of Waiora, the Homeland by Hone Kouka is such a show. Beginning as a class assessment for Year 13 Drama students at Whangarei Girls’ High School, Waiora went on to become smash hit show in Whangarei. Its first season in May 2017 sold out a 6 show season in a 160 seat venue overnight; the second in December did the same, prompting an extended season which also sold out.
Every performance received a standing ovation and, when Don Brash was challenged to see the show for its angle on the importance of Maori tikanga, the production made national news across all media. Word of mouth about the show also reached the other end of island. It was so favourable that writer, Hone Kouka, who is also the curator of Kia Mau, has invited Wahine Works to Wellington to be a major part of a festival that, in just four years has become the country’s premiere celebration of Maori and indigenous theatre, music and dance.
The former WGHS students through their company, Wahine Works, have been quick to respond. They have been busy ensuring everyone involved with the show will be available. Approaches to potential sponsors and funding organisations have been prepared and the support of Whangarei Girls’ High School has been secured. Three cast members even turned up to a certain Waitangi Day breakfast in order to invite, in person, government ministers, including the Prime Minister to attend the Opening Night onJune 1 at the Hannah Playhouse.
Spokesperson, Zahra Cherrington, says, “This is the most incredible opportunity for all of us involved. We will not only be a main act, performing on a premiere Wellington stage during a huge event, we will be mixing with the country’s biggest names in Maori theatre, dance, film and television. More importantly to us, however, is that we will be able to add the powerful voice of this play to the national discussions on mental health care, youth suicide and the place of Maori tikanga in modern Aoteroa in the city that is at the heart of political power. We are young, intelligent Wahine from Tai Tokerau and we’re on our way to Wellie!” . Here are some other reasons we want to go:
At a time when Maori education and the use of Maori language are hot topics in New Zealand, Waiora is a show that speaks to us all. Through the experience of a single family, it focuses on the issues Maori faced when we migrated from our rural homelands to the cities in order to assimilate into the industrial capitalist world of Pakeha culture.
The loss of language and connection to tikanga are issues modern New Zealand face as Maori reconnect to our roots and Pakeha inch ever closer to, not only acknowledging Maori as the tangatawhenua, but acknowledging the value all New Zealanders derive from the nation’s living, breathing, thriving Maori culture.
A Maori perspective on Mental Health and youth suicide
Rongo, the central character to the play, is not coping with the death of her Nan, shifting from home to a strange land and being stripped of her language and the tikanga she was raised to treasure. She possesses a “heaven sent” voice, but no longer sings. Instead, she has withdrawn into herself as she contemplates a suicide that she believes will join her family with their tupuna whose presence she feels around her. Through Rongo’s experience, Waiora vividly and powerfully portrays the effect of colonisation on Maori mental health. In so doing, it is bound to spark discussion in Wellington on the ways forward for Maori, just when the New Zealand government is listening.
Wahine Works promotes Northland
Born out of the five year Drama course at Whangarei Girls’ High School, Wahine Works is a new Northland theatre company, run by Maori graduates, that intends to provide pathways into theatre for young local women and men. The company has a commitment to providing opportunities for young women, to providing affordable theatre to the local community and to presenting works that ‘entertains, educates, challenges and inspires.’
With an inbuilt prejudice towards the three main cities, government funding bodies tend to regard the regions as less deserving. However, that’s not right! Wahine Works, together with other companies in the north, have a strong local audience base and we can match it with the big city companies in terms of quality and support. By going to Wellington with Waiora, the Homeland, Wahine Works will have an opportunity to demonstrate that the performing arts in the regions, Northland, in particular, are worth investing in.
“Wahine Works are to be congratulated on their outstanding production of Waiora. The entire production was excellent from the technical aspects of the set design and costuming to the actors’ performances. As an audience member I was moved to both laughter and tears and was greatly impressed by the acting talent on display.” – Whangarei Mayor SHERLY MAI
Review: The Northern Advocate
Whangarei Girls High School’s Waiora: Powerful and incredibly moving! Waiora does not sugar coat heavy issues……….though, at times, the audience erupted with laughter.
The actors were so believable in their characters, I often forgot high school students were playing adults and the main male characters.
I sat in my seat watching emotional moments pass by, thinking I was doing pretty well not to shed tears — but then the ending came and I was reduced to a blubbering mess. When I looked around I noticed I was not the only one. Waiora is powerful. – by Mikaela Collins
What people have said of the show:
Kizzy Luis De Souza – Went last night very emotional and raw loved it so much cried lots. Well done all
Varina Flavell-Smith – Amazing show and talented actors
Jennifer Blasingame – Thank you for an unforgettable experience! This was a raw, moving performance of an incredibly important and relevant topic for today’s society! I think it should be required viewing for every kiwi!!!!! Excellent
Katie Woodhouse – There is honestly no bloody words to describe how far you all blew this show sky high out of the water. It was honestly so raw and pure and amazing, just every second was better than the last. In all honesty, I would be paying 30 bucks at least to see that kind of show at that level of performance.
Olivia Harvey – I am so glad I came and saw you guys. Wednesday night and tonight and both nights you all did so well. I am so proud of you all, not one person has left that theatre with dry eyes! I’m so blown away by all of you. i loved every minute of it
Zeplynne Lee Great show! It’s a must see. Very emotional
Erina Tuaumu – Awesome performance last night…. my family and i loved it, some awesome talent that was emotional and funny and well performed…. well worth going!! Well done!!
Ally Kjeldsen – Wow, what a fantastic performance tonight! I’m totally impressed and blown away by the standard of talent. Thank you for making it believable, stirring up a lot of emotions. Very powerful well done! Recommended a must see people.
Kelvin Davis – Waiora – The Homeland performed by Whangarei Girls High Yr 13 was outstanding! Pleasure to have been at the opening night. Nga mihi Bill and all the actors, set and costume design, lighting and sound.
Suicide bereaved network- NZ and Rob Mokaraka – Titiro mai whanau and friends. Our taiohi are speaking up for themselves to illuminate the storm of depression and whakamomori. Brave, courageous and educating their peers and whanau.
Whangarei Love it here – The universal story of belonging and staying true to your heritage- a story to make you weep and also laugh.
Karen Wikiriwhi – I felt waves of emotions because of what I saw. Last night reminded me of so much, my grandparents who spoke to us in Maori but we had to answer in English. Funny how there’s an uneasy feeling but unsure of what is it or how to describe it, I felt angry at some of the things I saw, heard and felt!
Lots of questions were answered last night. An amazing show, well written, amazing actors, to take a person through so many emotions is a hard task. I’m a hard nutter to break at the best of times- thank you all so much.
The drive home was productive, I worked through so many things, understood a lot more, cried for my grandparents parents, aunties, uncles, but most of all I cried for our generation who lost so much with the migration to the city, BUT I’m also grateful for the next generation of my own sons who are so advanced than I in speaking Maori! My grandchildren will be fluent speakers too, they are on their wat- kura kaupapa- that in itself was a huge step for Maoridom!
Khaarla Tavoi – Such a beautiful story and amazing performance. I was left breathless and at the end was literally crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe properly. I’m so blessed to have seen this, the cast should be so proud of themselves.
Willow-Jean Prime – Waiora! Amazing! The show has just finished and it was a really powerful performance. I’m inspired by our youth! Well done Whangarei Girls’ High, outstanding!
Cilla – I am so deeply inspired by you all, you formidable young Maori women from Whangarei Girls High. Such an amazing exhibition of storytelling, commitment and resolve, I am so incredibly proud of your achievement and it must not stop there.
”Waiora is a totally engaging show that vividly illustrates the issues Maori faced when they were adapting to the new industrial/capitalist lifestyle the Pakeha brought with them to New Zealand.
A group of Whangarei students hope their school show will create a stronger understanding of Maori culture and colonisation while also providing a platform for people to discuss depression. NZ herald http://www.nzherald.co.nz/northern-advocate/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503444&objectid=11950536
Whangarei Boys High School Headboy, Lance Baker who plays one of the ancestors of Rongo says, “The production gives a broad portrayal of some of the issues that lead to suicide including some of the European influences and foreign protocols that add pressure to the situation.” http://www.maoritelevision.com/news/regional/waiora-cast-aim-spark-discussion-on-suicide
“It was a very powerful production indeed, as Bill Walker said it would be, and it was a good play itself and the cast, I thought, handled it very professionally. I had to remind myself that these were high school students,” Mr Brash said.
Whangarei Girls High School’s Waiora: powerful and incredibly moving
The actors were so believable in their characters, I often forgot high school students were playing adults and the main male characters – Hone, Boyboy and Steve – were played by females.
Waiora does not sugar coat heavy issues, so throughout much of the performance there was silence.
While the production is set in the 1960s, these are still things which happen now. The cast promises to make you cry. I sat in my seat watching emotional moments pass by, thinking I was doing pretty well not to shed tears — but then the ending came and I was reduced to a blubbering mess. When I looked around I noticed I was not the only one. Waiora is powerful. – By Mikaela Collins
“We got to focus on the message at hand and really try to put it out there. We decided to dedicate the shows to all the suicides that have been happening around Northland.” “It doesn’t blatantly show suicide but shows the pressures of English society on a young Maori girl who has been stripped of her culture.” A core theme for anyone of any cultural background is that being removed from your culture and not knowing yourself can put pressure on your mental state and cause damage. Zahra said her drama teacher “has never been in a show so significant in influencing the community as ours has.”
How to Give a Little:
Head to https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/waiora-to-wellie and click “Donate Now”.