Middleton Grange School Performing Arts Centre, Christchurch

01/10/2015 - 02/10/2015

The Body Festival 2015

Production Details


Kurawaka depicts the ancient Māori creation story in a vivid retelling through contemporary haka theatre which incorporates the multiple disciplines of Kapa Haka. The talented artists of Hawaiki TU perform the arts of karakia, waiata, taonga pūoro, traditional movement and mau rākau to tell the tale, while utilising vibrant cinematic imagery and lighting effects to set the scene.

Kurawaka is known in Māori mythology as the sacred site where mankind was fashioned from kokowai (red soil) by Tāne, the creator of the human race and god of the forest and all its creatures. Kurawaka is inspired by Tāne and Hine’s story and draws on the parallel themes of restoring our environment and spiritual connection to the land by balancing the universal energies of ‘Te Taha Wahine’ and ‘Te Taha Tane’.


Company Hawaiki TU
Venue Middleton Grange School Theatre, 27 Arthur St.
Date/Time Thurs 1st and Fri 2nd October at 7.30pm
Duration 70 mins inc. short interval
Cost $20, $15 concession from Dash Tickets www.dashtickets.co.nz or ph 0800 327 484, booking fees apply

Hawaiki TU performers: Kereama Te Ua, Edmund Eramiha, Karena Koria, Sophie Williams


Maori contemporary dance , Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

70 mins

Contemporary approach adds new layers to traditional narrative

Review by Julia Harvie 02nd Oct 2015

Kurawaka is presented as part of the Body Festival in a traditional theatre setting. In its current state, it is in its second stage of development with further plans of development in 2016. It is important for companies such as Hawaiki TU to be in this festival and the predominantly Maori audience are clearly grateful for this opportunity to have their stories represented through this format and in this context in Ōtautahi.

Hawaiki TU is led by Kura Te Ua (Iwi: Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Te Whakatohea, Tuhoe, Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri) and Beez Ngarino Watt ( Iwi: Ngati Ranginui, Ngati Pukenga, Ngati Kahu, Ngai te Rangi, Waikato). The work engages with a refreshing take on the creation story, addressing it from an ecological and specifically female perspective. The predominantly female cast are dressed in red, alluding to kokowai, the red soil prevalent in Kurawaka, known in Maori mythology as the sacred site where mankind was fashioned.

There is no doubt that Hawaiki TU as a company have incredible integrity, passion and dedication to every aspect of their practice and their strengths absolutely lie in the traditional forms. The strength of karakia, haka, waiata, taonga puoro and mau raukau are undeniable. Kurawaka is moving, intrinsically aesthetically appealing, and in many ways, for any non-Maori speaker in the audience, visually and theatrically abstract.

Conceptually the framing of ‘mana wahine’ in this work was powerful. The opening section, a female haka, is thrilling and sets the tone and expectations for the evening. The use of voice and breath throughout the evening is natural, effective and well integrated. Ensemble unison is employed throughout  the work and I wonder if this is consciously employed in reference to the haka modality. Is duet, trio, solo or a number of images occurring at once a possibility for future development of the work?

During the course of the evening the ensemble address different states of the female archetype – warrior, siren and guardian. We return a number of times to the more traditional narrative of the creation story, employing character, narrative and metaphor alluding to childbirth. Early on a membrane-like cloth is introduced, covering the stage reading the earth as a womb.  An umbilical cord is woven by the women around the only male performer’s torso, he is then birthed through the cloth still attached to this umbilical cord. These metaphors did ultimately become a little too heavy handed for me, I needed space for my own interpretation and reflection.

Kurawaka challenges me. I sit in the divide, a white New Zealander who is proud of our bicultural nation and yet my knowledge of Maori culture and tradition is limited. This tends to make me feel like an outsider when I attend contemporary Maori dance works, and when I find myself questioning the work, I feel uneasy. What I do know about is contemporary dance, and I am inherently aware that for non-dance ‘speakers’, my feeling of unease is one that is universally felt at any contemporary dance event. Contemporary dance as a genre is very diverse and makes it incredibly difficult to define. It has its own lineage and context, there is not one definitive form. I believe it is possible to give as much attention to upholding the contemporary form as to the tikanga of the Maori tradition. In a sense, the contemporary is about innovation and pushing forward, where the Maori must preserve the past. This must be a constant challenge for any contemporary Maori artist. I have no doubt that Huwaiki TU is searching for more in both forms. I look forward to seeing how this work and the company develop in the future.


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