He Aha Te Hau

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

29/04/2024 - 30/04/2024

Production Details

Producer: Joe Pihema
Director: Tāmati Patuwai
Co-Writers: Joe Pihema and Tāmati Patuwai
Choreographer: Kura Te Ua
Musical Composer and Singer: Majic Paora
Lyricist: Huia Pihema

Produced by:
Tumutumuwhenua Cultural Trust and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei

He aha te hau e wawara mai, he tiu, he raki
Nāna i ā mai te pūpūtarakihi ki uta
E tikina atu e au te kōtiu
Ko ia te pou whakairo
Ka tū ki Waitematā i ōku wairangi e

Ngāti Whātua welcomes you on a theatrical journey of love, war, loss, and destiny through the eyes and mind of the eponymous ancestor, Apihai Te Kawau.

HE AHA TE HAU is a groundbreaking theatrical event that uniquely fuses ancient ritual and incantations through storytelling, haka, waiata, and karakia. Spatial design, lighting, soundscape, and costume design blend effortlessly to take the audience on a magical journey of love, war, loss, and destiny.

HE AHA TE HAU bridges the past and the present, creating a transformative experience for all. We step back in time to witness the world of Ngāti Whātua through the eyes and mind of Apihai Te Kawau. We see his parents joined in the pākuha marriage ceremony, his ascendency to leadership, the revealing of a prophesy, the signing of Te Tiriti, and finally his last days reflecting on his life and the times of his people.

HE AHA TE HAU is the first of a series of activations that celebrate our unique identity through theatre, song and dance. Elements of our history are revealed in this production across three vignettes.

Executive Producer Huia Pihema says HE AHA TE HAU has provided a wonderful opportunity to upskill and build capacity across the hapū and iwi, under the tutelage of Kura Te Ua, Majic Pāora and our ringatohu, Tamati Patwai.”

HE AHA TE HAU resonates on so many levels as a story-telling tool, a place of pride for our people and a training ground for the next generation of Whātua” says Director Tamati Patuwai.

“We are thrilled with the journey so far and our cast and crew can’t wait to share this taonga with our people” says Joe Pihema, HE AHA TE HAU Producer and Script Writer.

Q THEATRE, Rangatira
Monday 29 – Tuesday 30 April 2024
$5 – $20 (service fees apply)
90 minutes, no interval

KAPA – Cast:
Te Waiata Paora-Perkins
Wairangi Harrison- Rudolph
Diva-Ataahua Ratu
Tuperiri Pihema
Rangimārie Mcoll
Mauri Hohepa-Wātene
Rawinia Morehu
Te Raukura Hawke
Psalm Cowley-Davis
Miria Morehu
Michael Long
Ngāroimata Morgan
Kaiaia Hawke
Kingi Tupene
Raya Davis

Singer: Majic Paora
Guitarist: Te Whaiao Manga

Costume: Huia Pihema
Visual Imagery and Sound Production: Tāmati Patuwai
Photography and GFX Roi Kapea

Production Assistant: Materoa Rewiri
Directors Assistant: Tui Takaparawhau Hawke

Executive Producer: Huia Pihema
Cultural Advisors: Joe Pihema and Te Kurataiaho Kapea

Community-based theatre , Cultural activation , Kapa Haka theatre , Multimedia , Performance Art , Te Reo Māori , Theatre ,

90 minutes

They maintain a beautiful hold over their deep pool of simmering ihi

Review by Anatonio Te Maioha 01st May 2024

He Aha Te Hau is a creative 50-minute presentation devised, directed, produced and presented by Ngāti Whātua, about Ngāti Whātua, for Ngāti Whātua, in Ngāti Whātua. Nā koutou anō tēnei kōrero i whakatū, i whakatinana, i whakaatu. Nāreira kei te mihi atu ki a koutou ngā heru hāpainga o tō Iwi, tēnā koutou katoa.

He Aha Te Hau is a multimedia presentation with images and interviews up on a big screen as part of the backdrop. Through three short vignettes it celebrates, mourns, embodies and embeds what it is to be uniquely and specifically Ngāti Whātua. The majority of the children, teenagers and adults in the cast of 20 have grown up hearing, singing, and telling these stories.

 The stories are literally and inherently a part of their beings and connected to where they live – they are their namesakes. No doubt having these stories as their cultural references so embedded in them is what helps He Aha Te Hau to stand so astutely as a natural assertion of their Ngāti Whātuatanga. He pou whakairo. A carved pillar staked in their ground ornamented with their songs, incantations, prophecies, haka and dance.

In Act 1 we’re introduced to Apihai Te Kawau the Ariki of Ngāti Whātua through the majority of the 1800s.

Through Act 2 we see Te Kawau guide his people through wars with the north and the tumult of European contact. We see him sign Te Tiriti. 

In Act 3 Apihai shares his hopes for his people and touches on the effects of shattered promises.

To add some context, it’s important to know that the entire focus of He Aha Te Hau is “To honour our tupuna so that our children may flourish”. The plan was not to present it in a Theatre, but to present it on their Marae Ātea in front of Tumutumuwhenua, their whare up on their hill at Orākei. They’d rehearsed, they were ready, they put up a huge awning and a lighting rig in preparation and were all set to go, then… tūpuna intervention – a tangi. Precedence ceded… and perhaps their Aunty’s way of saying: You’ve always got this place – get out there! This is your town, take it to town!

So because it was designed for Ngāti Whātua to celebrate, see and uplift themselves, there are some givens that you would know as a Ngāti Whātua audience member watching your own show. I’m not Ngāti Whātua, and I’m no expert on their kōrero, but these are maybe some of the givens that might enhance an audience member’s experience if you were outside the information loop:

Through all the upheaval of colonial contact their leader Apihai Te Kawau manages to negotiate and hold on to 700 acres of land for his people at Takaparawhau up there on the hill (Bastion Point).

On top of that, as a platform to establish the city of Auckland, Te Kawau gifts over 3,000 acres to the settlers. Hobson takes it upon himself to take another unauthorised 500 acres, which perpetuates unending illegal land grabs.

Later the same settlers force Ngāti Whātua to live down in the wetland flats at Ōkahu Bay where the settlers run a raw sewerage pipe – not in the area where they live, but through the Ngāti Whātua village and out into the bay where their settler effluent pollutes the food source and washes back in to the village in heavy rains.

In the 1950s at Ōkahu Bay the same colonial institution burns the Ngāti Whātua village to the ground overnight. They boot Ngāti Whātua up the hill and change the village to a park because they want their Queen to drive round the water front, but they don’t want her to see another Sovereign Nation that isn’t comfortably under their thumb (Ngāti Whātua).  

Then as recently as 1978, having booted them up the hill, the Government now wants to boot them off the hill. So in a massive display of State power they send in over 800 Police and Army to force Ngāti Whātua off the same land Apihai Te Kawau had managed to keep for his people.

Fast forward- eventually truth prevails and Ngāti Whātua get their land up there back.

Snap to the present for He Aha Te Hau and after their Aunty’s tangi and a month of reorganizing but no rehearsals, these descendants meet the day before opening their show to bring it up to speed. Amazing. But now they’re going to be in a theatre, so by default two different cultural entities – Ngāti Whātua and Q Theatre – have to navigate, weave into and uphold each other. And everyone learns. At the welcoming for the Ngāti Whātua Cast and Crew in to the Q Theatre, Ngāti Whātua turn the tables and welcome the Q Theatre people into the Q Theatre. This is after all Ngāti Whātua land filled with their stories that currently just happens to have a Theatre on it. Like the show itself it’s an unthreatening assertion, they don’t bash any messages, they just be who they are, and do what they do. The Q people roll with it. Victories already and the show hasn’t even started!

I’ve mostly referred to He Aha Te Hau as a presentation rather than a Play or a performance because I don’t see them acting, they’re not pretending or performing, they’re being. And through their being they relate who they are in their own stories about the people they descend from. It’s astonishing really that through their being themselves in their own story – in their very first performance in a theatre – they reach a level of being that is endlessly pursued by the most experienced of theatre and film performers: arā, to be, not to act being.

Nāreira ka piki ake rātou ki tikitiki o Rangi and they do ascend because they arrive as experts of their own backstory, and they all arrive with a vast skill base including at least 2 languages, Weaponry skills, Poi, and vocal expertise in speech, Haka and singing. They bring their Pā, their Marae, their whare, their ātea, their people into the theatre. More victories.  

We all enter to see the 3 sided seating arrangement with an ātea or open space in the middle and we innately recognise where the whare must be if that’s where the seats are – even without an actual physical whare being there, we know where we are, we are comfortable here, we’re on the marae, this is our space, we adopt it and we behave in accordance. Initially the house lights are up and it’s very clear this is not a you and them, or an us vs you thing, this is an all of us together thing, in the best way it’s participatory – not observatory.

Everyone involved presents themselves in their roles with a warmth of recognisable humanness. They maintain a beautiful hold over their deep pool of simmering ihi which threatens but never spills from their control and it’s far more captivating that way – ā ka pupū ake tō Alfred Hitchcock whakatauākī: “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

Congratulations me ngā mihi nui to all involved, I look forward to anticipating the bang of the next instalment – Kōkiri!


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'He Aha Te Hau' is an outstanding historic milestone as Ngāti Whātua share the history of their land and its people.

Review by Nik Smythe 30th Apr 2024

The esoteric multi-media 100% Ngāti Whātua presentation that is He Aha Te Hau engages a fifteen-strong multigenerational cast. Their strong energy and presence is sustained throughout their onstage journey through a range of classic and contemporary performance styles including drama, music, waiata, kapa haka, documentary, lighting and soundscape.

This premiere is no doubt a monumental event for the artistic creators Kura Te Ua (choreographer), Majic Pāora (Waiata mentor) and director Tamati Patuwai, not to mention the entire cast, crew and company and I daresay everyone else present. The excitement and energy of the company is palpable, and the resulting theatrical experience is simultaneously moody spectacle, thoughtful analysis and celebration of the mana and aroha their familial connection provides.

The titular He Aha Te Hau, as I’ve learned just this evening, is a historic Ngāti Whātua chant attributed to the iwi’s founding leader Titahi. It prophesies imminent critical change in the Waitemata region that he governed some time before James Cook turned up and everything did indeed change.

In the filmed segment where iwi members express their perspectives on the actions and intentions of Apihau Te Kawau, their ancestral chieftain who signed Te Tiriti in 1940, one woman nominates He Aha Te Hau for their tribal anthem. As the premiere audience, many if not the majority of whom being Tangata Whenua join the cast in raising the roof of the Rangatira theatre with their powerfully resonant rendition, it’s easy to see her point.

The lyrics and dialogue are about 95% Te Reo, which for a very limited speaker like me does provoke the sense that I’m missing a fair amount of detail and nuance within the broader narrative. What is clear enough is that this is work by Ngāti Whātua for Ngāti Whātua. We are all welcome to observe and engage on the hosts’ terms, which justly include a minimal level of in-show transliteration.

Through Patuwai’s transcendental staging of myriad styles, interweaving to produce a quite coherent broad narrative, there is plenty to sustain my attention. For a more fundamental understanding of what’s being represented within the sometimes esoteric theatrical collage, the programme’s three-act synopsis is very helpful. 

While said text clearly delineates the proceedings into three sections – Te Kawau’s parents’ story, his own leadership challenges leading up to the signing of Te Tiriti, and reflections on the legacy of that decision both in his own time and future generations – these key themes inexorably mesh together so that the collective work presents as a fully connected whole.

The tentatively hopeful conclusion arrives sooner than expected. As such there is plenty of room for enhancing and expanding the performance, narrative and commentary elements within the solid conceptual framework. I’m unsure what the company’s intentions are for the future of this work, but it is easy to visualise it continue to develop through future iterations, not unlike an anthological burlesque revue, albeit connected by the strong core Kaupapa.

My companion ventures the suggestion that they could go further ahead in time to conceive a potential future, be it optimistic and/or foreboding, based on where we are today and the foreseeable trajectory for the people of Tāmaki Makaurau and/or the nation. Wherever it is taken from here, He Aha Te Hau stands as an outstanding historic milestone as they embark on a momentous journey to curate and share the history of this land and its peoples.

Titahi’s Chant

Here are the words (with the English translation following):

He aha te hau e wawara mai
He tiu, he raaki
Nāna i ā mai te pūpūtarakihi ki uta
E tikina atu e au ki te kōtiu
Kukume mai ai?
Koia te pou whakairo ka tū ki Waitematā
I aku wairangi e.

What is that murmuring sound
Upon the north wind
That cast my paper nautilus ashore
Which I plucked from the north wind
And thus claimed?
It is the carved pillar that stands in the Waitematā Harbour
That I see in my distressed state.


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