Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky

Te Papa Tongarewa, 55 Cable Street, Wellington

13/06/2017 - 17/06/2017

KIA MAU Festival 2017

Production Details

Created and directed by Mīria George

Tawata Productions

An innovative performance piece created and directed by Mīria George and performed by Te Hau Winitana, Manarangi Mua and Mapihi Kelland.

Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky is a modern statement of climate change, colonisation and Christianity across the Pacific rim. It is an untangling of the greatest collision to have affected Te Moana-nui-a-kiva – western imperialism.

Told through movement, dance and text, Fire In the Water, Fire In The Sky is performed in gallery and museum spaces. A cautionary tale of greed and destruction, big business and family, Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky is a search for hope.

Created in Hawai’i in 2017 as part of Mīria’s Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer in Residency at University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, the Kia Mau Festival marks Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky premiere season.

Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky features design by Cara Louise Waretini + Tony De Goldi.  This new work is produced by Tawata Productions.

Image by Robert George.


10.30AM | 11.15AM | 12PM | TUES 06 JUNE – SAT 10 JUNE 2017

Performance duration: 30 minutes



10.30AM | 11.15AM | 12PM | TUES 13 JUNE – SAT 17 JUNE 2017

Performance duration: 30 minutes


Performed by Te Hau Winitana, Manarangi Mua and Mapihi Kelland.
Design by Cara Louise Waretini + Tony De Goldi
Image by Robert George

Performance installation , Pasifika contemporary dance , Multi-discipline , Dance-theatre , Dance ,

30 miniutes

A Stab in the Waist of Life:

Review by Ammar Sultan Al-Maani 23rd Jun 2017

Performance as a site of intervention in colonial Imperialism and neo-colonial complicity.

On 17 June 2017, I had the pleasure of physically and emotionally seeing one of Mīria George’s recent theatrical and performance productions Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky. The play is exquisitely performed by Te Hau Winitana, Manarangi Mua and Mapihi Kelland at Te Papa Tongarewa spaces. This work is a part of the Kia Mau Festival that showcases diverse voices and plurality of visions of Māori, Pasifika, and Indigenous artists. It also sheds a new light on the creative productivity in knowledge economy of postcolonial communities.

At first glance, this performance space looks more like a tour of exploration through the museum and gallery installations that leads to the Māori heritage exhibitions at Level 4. During this act of ‘touring’, I find myself witnessing pre-colonial contact’s rich traditional technologies and worthy-of-attention lifestyle.

Inside this beautiful set, three wonderful actors appear. The performance opens with an actor hammering two canes together, trying to make a sharp musical intonation as if she is aware of the pitch accuracy. The audience comes from every distant pass heeding the call of nature and begins to follow the actors through the museum spaces.

The actors force us to be ‘entangled’, particularly, when they merge between destruction of nature by ‘humans’ and the violent acts of colonisation; one actor simply uses one of the canes, used before, and begins digging the soil, savagely, and snatching, using gestural movements, the heads of the plants.

This scene brings me to make a compelling analogy with the colonial crimes against the colonised and nature and to investigate ‘some’ tribal leaders’ complicity in these crimes; why else does the director assign this role, particularly, to a Māori, Pasifika or indigenous-descendant-actor?  Both brutal acts carried out are ‘a stab in the waist of life’.

The director Mīria George uses some Brechtian techniques such as songs, dances and mouth placards to instruct the audience in what way they can intervene in climate change. Her work is didactic and aims to increase the audience’s political and cultural awareness in unresolved global issues. This kind of communal concern invites us to draw a bright vision of our international human community and revise our conception of citizenship. The director implies this message through these characters speaking, once, in unintelligible tongues but performing meaningful gestures and movements. Indeed, this is the power of live performance: a language and space for all. 

The lighting design of Fire and the costume design of the actors enhance the show. The spotlights, at the play’s opening, focus the spectators’ attention on parts of the ill-lit hallway. The techs of the opening scene are just going by the book because beginnings are always ambivalent to spectators. With time, as the message of the play unfolds before us like puzzling reflections in a mirror and the audience set their sights squarely upon the transformations they must now help establishing regarding climate changes, the light of other spaces become more brightly lit.

The costume design on its part maintains a spirit of rebirth, renewal, partnership, peace and hope; all actors appears in white clothes with a similar degree of whiteness.

The ending is unexpected. As we, the spectators, used to do throughout the play, we follow in actors’ footsteps through the passages; but this time they speed up. We also accelerate to reach them but they hide in the change room. We fail to show the actors our appreciation by applauding, smiling, whistling or to express any form of acknowledgment.

For my part, the message is crystal clear. Mīria George and her crew want us to take them ‘seriously’. I felt implicated and complicit. Therefore, I am writing. 


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A Silent Flame

Review by Donna Banicevich Gera 16th Jun 2017

‘Fire in the Water, Fire in the Sky’ is an innovative performance piece currently being shown in the Gallery at Te Papa as part of the Kia Mau Festival of Maori and Pasifika dance and theatre. The story is a contemporary take on colonisation, Christianity, and climate change that truly flickers away like the ‘fire’ in its title.

Created by Miria George, whilst on residency in Hawaii this year, it is fitting that the premiere should debut here as part of this festival.  George’s skill as a director as well is clearly highlighted throughout this seamless powerful performance.

Produced by Tawata Productions, and featuring the design skills of Cara Louise Waretini and Tony De Gouldi, the simplicity of the production and the design is also key. Aesthetically it draws you effortlessly into the world of the story and guides you through the installation piece to exactly where we are on the planet today.

Dressed in white the three Pasifika performers, Te Hau Winitana, Manarangi Mua, and Mapihi Kelland, excel as they demonstrate a profound fusion of movement, sound, and spoken word.  What has the most impact for me though is the silence. It is through the silence that we read the body language, hear the whispers, and respond fully to the impact of the work.

In 45 minutes we cover a lot of ground, but nothing resonates more than the scenes on climate change.  Yes – ‘they cast a long shadow, the water company’. We are privy to the taped mouths and messages of ‘Tinned Fish Don’t Breed’, ‘More Tuna Less Puna’ and ‘Ban Purse Seining’. Here sits the true strength, the political edge.

More silence. The audience follows quietly. You can hear a pin drop. The journey for us finally ends underneath the Treaty of Waitangi exhibition. The silence is now broken. I hear a voice behind me ‘Cool eh – that they finished here’.  There are a few chuckles. A few nods. Yes it was.

I leave the museum totally moved by what I’ve just seen. It sits easy, this performance, smouldering away, flickering like a silent flame.



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Collective imagery brings awareness and responsbility

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 14th Jun 2017

The Kia Mau Festival is in its third year and this year has had a particularly strong presence in the city. Fire in the Water Fire in the Sky, a performance by three va’ine who dance/ sing/speak, is beautifully crafted by director Miria George. Her own heritage includes Te Arawa, Ngati Awa and Rarotongan lineage and her direction in this work speaks with a Pacific breadth.

Deceptively simple, the voice of Te Moana- Nui-a-kiva and the effect of the colonisation of Aotearoa is developed and addressed in gestural movement and collective imagery. It takes the audience on a double journey as her strong work moves through a range of gallery installations on the fourth floor at Te Papa Tongarewa and  there are times when an eerie reinforcement of the Pacific message comes from other exhibits running their own but parallel courses in the journey.

Water is the basis of life, fire feeds our bellies and inflames our passions, and the work references the effects of power play in taking resources and the appropriation of a new people on the original owners of the land. History never seems to teach and scarily in the world of today we are witness to repeated behaviour as other nations take control of our water now.  

We walk peacefully but we witness a struggle that feels accepted yet unresolved. The movement clearly reflects times of collaboration and of conflict between these three women and their own perceptions and their united struggle with the new ‘ masters’. There is a satisfying surety and sense of completion as each section is released and time moves on but a very disquieting and abrupt end as these spokespeople simply vanish through a door into the bowels of the marae,

Simple costuming and clever use of headwear symbolises the peoples of the land and an effective colour palette makes the performers effective as much by speaking to us as by allowing us to take time to (re)consider our own place in this dialogue – understated yet strong in its message.

My grandson, nearly three, was mesmerised and totally included.

Each generation lives with their own history and this work brings awareness and forces a sense of responsibility to our perception of our land. The past and the present… the future?

There are calm questions raised and images that linger imprinted on the eye. Miria George has a wise voice and this work speaks strongly to her vision. Go to Te Papa – as a person on this planet, in this country, stepping on this earth, you owe it to yourself to experience ‘Fire in the Water Fire in the Sky’ It is a gem.

Kia Mau is about us all. Join the journey.


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