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The Matariki Collection

Curated by Whai Ngata
6th June 2013

 The Matariki Collection

The Matariki Collection

 Whai Ngata

Curated by Whai Ngata


Te Ao Māori on Screen

Former TVNZ Head of Māori Programming and veteran broadcaster (Koha, Waka Huia, Marae) Whai Ngata curated an inaugural selection of iconic Māori TV, film and music video for Matariki 2009. Each Matariki the celebration of te ao Māori on screen is strengthened with recent site additions: from Howie, to Hotere and haka; from protests to Poi-E, from Tāne to making Boy.


The Matariki Collection 2014


Geoff Murphy (Goodbye Pork Pie, Utu) directs this freewheeling take on the legend of Uenuku and his affair with the mist maiden Hinepūkohurangi. The story of love, betrayal, and rainbow redemption was the first Māori myth adapted for TV, and the first TV drama to be entirely performed in te reo. 

 E Tu

This confrontational debut from Upper Hutt Posse was NZ’s first hip hop record. Director and rapper Dean Hapeta delivers a personal manifesto and history lesson that proudly name checks 19th Century Māori warrior chiefs — Hone Heke, Te Rauparaha, Te Kooti — and their Māori Battalion successors.

 Koha - Whina Cooper (part one)

Dame Whina Cooper was one of the most influential Māori leaders of the 20th century. In this two-part TVNZ profile, she recalls her upbringing, formative influences, breeding pigs, being a storekeeper, setting up the Māori Women’s Welfare League and the importance of the land to her people. 

 E Ipo

Legendary Māori singer Prince Tui Teka performs his greatest hit ‘E Ipo’ in this excerpt from a TVNZ special recorded at Auckland’s Mandalay Ballroom. It became the first single written in te reo to top the NZ singles chart. Wife Missy and Ngoi (‘Poi E’) Pewhairangi join Tui Teka on stage.

 Māori Arts & Culture No. 1 - Carving & Decoration

This 1962 NFU doco is a comprehensive survey of the history and (then) state of Māori carving. Many taonga are filmed on display at Wellington’s Dominion Museum, and the film finds reviving tradition in new “community halls”, demonstrated via the building of Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt in 1960.

 Syd Jackson: Life and Times of a Fully Fledged Activist

Winner of Best Māori Programme at the 2003 NZ TV Awards, this edition of the Ngā Reo series profiles the front-running fighter for Māori, women's and homosexuals' rights. The late "warrior" intellectual helped put Treaty debate on the agenda, and led Ngā Tamatoa and the Clerical Workers Union.

 Hunting Aotearoa

This long-running staple of Māori Television is “New Zealand’s only television programme dedicated to hunting”. The presenters (Howard Morrison Jnr, then Matua Parkinson) bush bash and kōrero with fellow hunters: getting kai for their whānau, bagging trophies or helping protect native wildlife.


Staunch follows the politicisation of Ariana (Once Were Warriors’ Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell) a young Māori woman who’s run into trouble with the law. The Auckland-set TV3 drama was inspired by fact, and co-written by director Keith Hunter and playwright Toa Fraser; it won multiple 2002 NZ TV Awards.  

 Children of the Mist

This 1974 film, directed by Conon Fraser, visits the remote Urewera to explore the world of the Tūhoe. Their independence and identity have been challenged by historical tensions with Pākehā, and now modernity — as ‘children of the mist’ leave for education and jobs (at the mill, in the city).

 Te Rauparaha

This NFU biopic eulogises the 19th Century Māori leader and "cannibal statesman" Te Rauparaha. The Ngāti Toa chief led his people on an exodus from Kāwhia, to a stronghold on Kapiti Island where he reigned — via musket, flax trade and diplomacy — over a Cook Strait empire extending south to Akaroa.

 Lost in Translation

Inspired by an epiphany at the Waitangi Treaty grounds in 2000, and after learning New Zealand’s founding document was actually several pieces of paper, comedian Mike King went a on quest to learn the stories behind Te Tiriti O Waitangi in this praised 10-part series for Māori Television.

 Let My Whakapapa Speak

Director Tainui Stephens’ documentary tells the 25-year history of Kohanga Reo via the influential figure of Iritana Tāwhiwhirangi (2014 New Zealander of the Year finalist). Kohanga Reo is a world-leading educational movement that revitalised Māori language “by giving it back to the children”.

The Matariki Collection 2013

 Mt Zion

In director Tearepa Kahi’s debut feature Stan Walker (Australian Idol winner, The X Factor judge) plays aspiring singer Turei, who has to choose between duty to his potato picking family (Temuera Morrison is patriarch 'Papa') and a chance to support Bob Marley at his 1979 Western Springs concert.


Entertainment legend Maui Dalvanius ‘Poi E’ Prime rides an emotional roller coaster as he looks back on his career in this doco made in the final stages of his battle with lung cancer. The boy from South Taranaki who dreamed of becoming a circus ringmaster became a taonga of the NZ music industry.

 Ngā Tohu: Signatures

This TV drama follows a whānau taking a claim to the Waitangi tribunal, over plans their Pākehā neighbour has to build a resort on disputed land. Threaded by an age-old love story, it won the drama gongs at 2000's TV Awards. Director Andrew Bancroft wrote the teleplay with playwright Hone Kouka.

 Prince Tui Teka - 1983 Variety Show

The late Prince Tui Teka delivers a classic performance on a smoky Vegas-inspired set in this TVNZ show. From 'E Ipo' to Elvis, the songs are peppered with warmth, humour and poi action (led by a young Pita Sharples), as Tui Teka confirms his reputation as one of Aotearoa's great entertainers.

 Tahere Tikitiki - The Making of a Māori Canoe

This documentary records the 18-month-long building process of a waka taua, from the felling of the totara to the launch. The Harry Dansey-narrated film was significant in showing the currency of the canoe-building kaupapa alongside the lives (at the freezing works, the pub) of the builders.

 Koha - Ramai Hayward

This Koha special on screen taonga Ramai Hayward begins with the then-73 year old climbing an apricot tree from her Wairarapa childhood, kickstarting a journey through old haunts and celluloid: from school, to the Mt Eden filmmaking HQ for her and husband Rudall Hayward, to meeting Chairman Mao.

 Broken Barrier

By World War II locally-made movies were largely missing in action: John O’Shea’s Broken Barrier marked the first NZ dramatic feature since 1940. Ditching dialogue for 'spoken thoughts', the pioneering film examines cultural complications in a romance between a Pākehā journalist and a Māori nurse. 

 The Green Chain

This homegrown Erin Brockovich story follows former Whakatane sawmill worker Joe Harawira and his long battle to reveal the impact that workplace toxins have had on his community. The tale of the Joe vs the mills crusade won Best Popular Documentary at the 2012 New Zealand Television Awards

 Whare Māori - The Village (Episode One)

This 13 part Māori Television series looks at Māori architecture, exploring its unique buildings, history and its relationship to the communities it inhabits, with architect Rau Hoskins as guide. This episode won Best Information Programme at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards.

 Kupe - Voyaging by the Stars

This documentary follows Northland building contractor Hekenukumai 'Hector' Busby, as he leads the construction of 'Te Aorere', a kauri waka hourua (double-hulled canoe) and retraces Kupe's course across the Pacific, using navigation methods of his great Polynesian ocean voyaging ancestors.

 Two Rivers Meet / Te Tutakinga O Nga Awa E Rua

This 1979 film looks at the meeting of the 'two rivers' (Māori and Pākehā, oral and written) of the Aotearoa literary tradition. Rowley Habib is a guide as hui take place and readings of contemporary Māori poetry are set to images of Māori life, from Parihaka to Bastion Point and a Black Power hangi.

 Ka Haku Au - A Poet's Lament

Winner of Best Māori Language show in 2009, this docu-drama celebrates the life and songs of Kohine Whakarua Ponika. The largely unsung Tuhoe, Ngāti Porou composer — who couldn't read a note of music — created enduringly popular waiata, including ‘Aku Mahi’, ‘Kua Rongorongo’ and ‘E Rona E’.

The Matariki Collection 2012

 Loose Enz - The Protesters

With a stellar cast, (Jim Moriarty, Merata Mita and Billy T James ... as a Marxist), The Protesters explores issues surrounding race and land ownership in NZ in the (then-recent) aftermath of the Springbok Tour and occupation of Bastion Point. The pioneering teleplay was written by Rowley Habib.

 Taua - War Party

A party of returning raiders hauls a massive waka taua (war canoe) through dense Waitakere bush, driven on by their brutal chief. A water-boy crouched in the bow risks a bold act of compassion towards the trophy prisoner. Taua won Best Short at National Geographic’s 2007 All Roads festival.

 Pounamu - Apirana Turupa Ngata

Ngāti Porou leader, land reformer, politician and scholar Sir Apirana Ngata (1874-1950) is celebrated in this episode of a series about leading Māori figures. The first Māori university graduate, Ngata was an MP, Māori culture advocate, and a firm believer that Māori had to live alongside Pākehā.

 Little Things

Wi Kuki Kaa stars in this award-winning music video for Trinity Root’s beloved celebration of whānau. Director Chris Graham’s concept is simple but impactful: Kaa seated on a veranda as family activities take place around him, with a close up on Kaa's eye slowly zooming in and out of memories.

 The Power of Music (Te Kaha o Te Waiata)

Rather than opting for a nightclub, Auckland reggae band Herbs chose troubled East Coast town Ruatoria as the venue for a 1987 album release. Lee Tamahori's classic mini-doco captures an emotional experience for band and locals as they meet at Mangahanea marae: unity, sensitivity and smiles abound.

 Te Rerenga Wairua

The Wall meets wairua in this trippy animation that follows the spirit of a person killed in a motorway car accident. The life force (wairua) journeys to Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) to the gnarly pohutukawa and the leap towards Hawaiki-Nui. The cult short is directed by Joe Wylie.

 Rangatira: Pita Sharples

Rangatira ('chief') was a five-part doco series that profiled the lives and achievements of five Māori leaders. This edition looks at academic and future Māori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples, a key figure of the Māori cultural renaissance — from his cherished taiaha to relaxing by ten pin bowling.

 The Gathering

This teledrama explores the tensions surrounding an elderly woman's tangi. Alienation of urban Māori — particularly son Paul (Jim Moriarty) — from iwi roots, is at its heart. A pioneering exploration of Māori themes, the Rowley Habib teleplay was one of three one-off dramas the playwright wrote.

 Ruia Taitea: The World is Where We Are

This doco looks at the life and work of author Patricia Grace. Filmed at home, on marae and in classrooms, Grace discusses her writing process, her Hongoeka Bay upbringing, her children's books, and her Māori identity and belonging to the land (a theme of her then-recently successful novel Potiki).

The Matariki Collection 2011


Mauri (meaning life force), is loosely set around a love triangle and explores cultural tensions, identity, and a changing way of life in a dwindling East Coast town. Director Merata Mita became the first Māori woman to direct, write and produce a feature; as well, the crew was Māori-dominated.


This Kerry Brown-directed clip was the first music video funded by New Zealand on Air. Cameo-filled, the vibrant hip-hop song is a plea for Māori youth to preserve their culture by learning the reo (and it also doubles as a handy guide to Māori pronunciation). “It’s time to ...” Tu meke!

 Death of the Land

This passionate, articulate courtroom drama sets in conflict opinions about the sale of a block of Māori ancestral land. Jim Moriarty comments on proceedings as a tangata whenua conscience. It was adapted by Rowley Habib from his play and was the first TV drama to be written by a Māori scriptwriter.

 Te Rua

Little screened, Te Rua marked Barry Barclay’s impassioned feature follow-up to Ngati. This apposite story of stolen Māori carvings in a Berlin museum sees feisty activist (Peter Kaa) and elder lawyer (screen taonga Wi Kuki Kaa) favour different approaches to getting the carvings back home.

 The Makutu on Mrs Jones

A Witi Ihimaera short story about culture clash is the basis for this comic drama directed by Larry Parr. Set in the 1940s Whangamomona, it focuses on conflict between the local tohunga (Sonny Waru) and a feisty Pākehā woman (Annie Whittle), as seen through the eyes of a young boy (Julian Arahanga).

 Pioneer Women - Hera Ngoungou

This Pioneer Women episode dramatised the story of Hera Ngoungou: an eight-year-old Pākekā girl kidnapped in Taranaki in 1874 and raised as Māori; she did not see her birth family for 50 years by which time she identified as Māori. Ngoungou is played by Ginette McDonald in a Feltex-winning performance.

The Matariki Collection 2010

 Te Matakite O Aotearoa - The Māori Land March

“When old and young come together to do this, it shows the strength of their convictions.” This film is a chronicle of a key moment in the Māori renaissance: the 1975 land march led by then 79-year-old Whina Cooper. Includes interviews with marchers and stirring evidence of Cooper’s oratory skills.

 Don't Let it Get You

“The big ALL FUN show for the whole family to enjoy!” was the tagline for this classic musical comedy feature. There’s a romantic plot, but this is only an excuse for a melange of madcap, pep-filled 60s musical fun. Sir Howard Morrison, Kiri and Rotorua are the stars in the tiki-flavoured tale.

 The Governor - He Iwi Ko Tahi Tatou (Episode Four)

This episode of the controversial 70s series about Governor George Grey sees war looming in the Waikato as Māori tribes band together. Peacemaker and kingmaker Wiremu Tamehana (Don Selwyn) agonises over the right course of action in this Feltex Award winner (for best script and drama).

 Reluctant Hero

In 2007 Corporal Willie Apiata, of the NZ Army's elite, secretive SAS unit, was awarded the Victoria Cross for carrying a wounded soldier to safety while under fire in Afghanistan. This doco had exclusive access to the shy soldier, from the time of the award to dealing with sudden celebrity.


Watch excerpts and go behind the scenes of the local box office record-smashing film. Intended as a "painful comedy of growing up", Taika Waititi's second feature revolves around an imaginative East Coast boy trying to make sense of his world - and the return of his just-out-of-jail father.


The uplifting clip is as famous as the song, which in 2010 re-entered charts courtesy of Boy. Accompanied by Jo, our breakdancing guide, we take a tour of Patea and surrounds, as the Patea Maori Club is captured bopping and twirling like piwakawaka, and Dalvanius does a pūkana out the car window. Legend.

 Journeys in National Parks: Te Urewera

This controversial (for its te reo use) episode of the Peter Hayden-presented National Park celebration series looks at the unique spiritual relationship between the Tuhoe people and the birds and bush in Te Urewera. Directed by Barry Barclay, it strives to tell the story “through their [Tuhoe] eyes".

 Ngarimu V.C

This doco looks at the life of East Coast-born Moana Ngārimu, the sole recipient from the Māori Battalion to be awarded the Victoria Cross during WWII. He was killed on 27th March 1943, after taking then defending overnight a hilltop position (and injured men) in Tunisia. He was 24.

 After School - Māorimind (Episode)

Host Olly Ohlson was the first Māori presenter to anchor his own kid’s TV show, and his catchphrase "Keep cool till after school" is remembered by a generation of Kiwi kids. This episode sees a game of Maorimind (a te reo test based on Mastermind) and a gob-stopping place name pronunciation.

 Koha - Nga Pikitia Māori

This episode of Koha is an examination of the Māori feature film industry, from the pioneers of the silent era up to Mauri. Reflection on international screenings of Ngati frames interviews with Witarina Harris, Ramai Hayward, Barry Barclay, Wi Kuki Kaa and Merata Mita. Features rare film footage.

 Haka - a Musical and a History

In Haka Māori myth is re-told through a series of stirring haka performances, amidst spitting mud and fire and ... in Paremoremo Prison and under a motorway. These scenes are intercut with archive imagery of post-pākehā Māori life, from first contact to Māori Battalion, urban drift and protest.

 To Live in the City

This Arthur Everard-directed doco pursues four young Māori - Ripeka, Moana, Grace and Phillip - as they transition from school, whānau and rural life To Live In the City (Wellington). A Seven Up-style 1991 sequel To Live in the City 24 Years On, picked on the lives of the four, now middle aged.


Muscular and intense, this challenging music video uses haka to boldly bring to life personal struggle. Taane: "I had to shoot a video for this powerful piece of music. It has become a catalyst for change within my life. A tool to help unlock and understand the past, present and future."

 Restoring the Mauri of Lake Omapere

This doco looks at efforts to restore the 'mauri' (life spirit) of Northland's Lake Omapere, a large fresh water lake - and taonga to the Ngāpuhi people - made toxic by pollution. It is a timely challenge to NZ’s 100% Pure branding and an argument for eco-sensitive kaitiakitanga (guardianship)

 Turangaarere: The John Pohe Story

Porokoru Patapu (John) Pohe was the first Māori pilot in the RNZAF. 'Lucky Johnny' was a WWII hero who flew an amazing 22 missions, and was involved in the legendary 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III. Watch excerpts from the docu-drama Listener reviewer Diana Wichtel called "a terrific yarn".

 Bastion Point - The Untold Story

In 1977 protesters occupied Bastion Point, after the announcement of a housing development on land once belonging to Ngāti Whātua. 506 days later police and army arrived to remove them. This doco includes interviews with protesters, and footage from landmark doco Bastion Point Day 507

 Ghosts of Gondwana

This award-winning NHNZ doco uses front-running camera techniques and Māori myth to delve into the night-time world of our ancient forests: bat-filled tree trunk saunas, “demon grasshopper” weta, and furry kiwi with chopstick bills. Narrated by George Henare with composer Hirini Melbourne as guide.

 Ralph Hotere

This doco explores the work of Ralph Hotere, now arguably NZ's greatest living artist. The film is framed around interviews and the execution of a large mural made for the Founders Theatre, Hamilton; and accompanied by an illuminating Ian Wedde essay and reflections from director Sam Pillsbury.

 Behold My Kool Style

This clip for the Dam Native classic won Best Video at the 1996 NZ Music Awards. Directed by Jonathan King, the sepia-tinged print, colonial photo studio-styled art direction (tokotoko and Edwardian suits) is beautifully realised and makes for an effective back-drop to the political lyrics.

 Kaleidoscope - Witi Ihimaera

Witi Ihimaera was the first Māori writer to publish a book of short stories and a novel. In this wide-ranging Kaleidoscope profile Ihimaera (here in his late 30s) talks about being “the boy from the sticks made good”, and conforming to expectations. George Henare reads excerpts from Ihimaera’s work.

 This is Your Life - Sir Howard Morrison

NZ showbiz icon Howard Morrison gets the surprise of his life in this emotional reunion of his many friends and whānau. Veteran Presenter Bob Parker consults his big red book to revisit all of the major career milestones of the man known as ‘Ol’ Brown Eyes’, and simply, ‘Mr Entertainment’.

The Matariki Collection 2009

 Tangata Whenua - Waikato

Up to the broadcast of this important documentary series, the TV landscape was pretty much European. Tangata Whenua was looked on as a "window into the Māori world". Equally, it provided Māori, who had relocated into the urban areas, a most important re-engagement with their 'taha Māori' or their 'Māoriness'.

 The Governor - The Reverend Traitor (Episode One)

This historic drama series screened at a time when Māori agitation about the inequalities regarding their status was making headlines. Seeing this history rekindled Māori vigour in maintaining the things they saw as important for the future of their culture and people.

 Te Karere - Waitangi Day 1984

The news bulletin in the Māori language first went air during Māori Language Week in 1982. Significant for pioneering Māori news on mainstream TV, for two decades it has been a platform for Māori to comment on issues and events. This episode presented by Derek Fox covers Waitangi Day 1984.

 Koha - Te Māori, a Cloak of Words

Koha began in 1980 and was a look into te ao Māori for Pākekā while providing a link for urban Māori estranged from their culture. It had 'wairua Māori' and was the first regular Māori programme shown in primetime. This episode looks at the famous Te Māori international touring exhibition of Māori art.


Barry Barclay's story of a post-war Māori community is a beautiful film. There are many reasons why Ngati should be part of the collection and bias is one of them: as a seven-year-old I'd ride eight miles by horseback, with my grandfather, to the East Coast bay where most of it was shot.

 Waka Huia - Episode One

A waka huia is traditionally a treasure box to hold the revered huia feather. Waka Huia the TV series records and preserves Māori culture and customs. This first episode is about the language and its survival and features groundbreaking interviews with Sir James Henare and Dame Mira Szaszy.

 E Tipu E Rea

A series of dramas engaging with Māori experiences of the Pākehā world, E Tipu E Rea was a flag-bearer for Māori storytelling on primetime TV. The first drama production to use predominantly Māori personnel, it was formative for many careers (Tem Morrison, Lee Tamahori, Riwia Brown, and more).

 The Best of The Billy T James Collection

I include Billy T James in this list because of his ability to take the piss out of Māori (and everyone else!). Some Māori were angry - for a while - but Billy T's bro-humour (black singlet, yellow towel) was infectious. The gift he left behind - being able to laugh at ourselves - is timeless.

 Pounamu - Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana

A short series of biographies on famous Māori made in 1990, these life stories stand the test of time. As we walk into the future, there is always comfort in knowing about our past. This episode features the prophet and political figure T.W. Ratana.

 Māori Battalion - March to Victory

Tainui Stephens' documentary tells the stories of five men who served with the Māori Battalion in WWII. Narration (by George Henare), remembrances, visits to historic sites, and archival footage create a respectful and stirring screen testament to the men who fought in the Battalion.

 Once Were Warriors

This hard-hitting movie has to be included for pointing out the problem of domestic violence, not only among Māori, but all societies. It gave a very powerful account of the huge problem, imparting a message that transcends race and social status.

 Mataku - The Sisters (Ngā Tuāhine)

The producers of this "Māori Twilight Zone" took a gamble and TV's winning wheel stopped at the right place. The mix of horror movie and traditional storytelling came out of left-field, but melded into compelling drama, steeped in Māori spiritualism. It deserves a place in this list.

 Māori Television Launch

After a quarter of a century of protest, agitation, and court hearings, here and in England, the Māori Television Service was launched in 2004. A broadcasting milestone, Māori now had a dedicated channel where they could hear the reo, see their culture and draw on the wealth of archive taonga.

 Māori Television Anzac Day Coverage

Māori Television has staked such a claim on Anzac Day coverage that the two have almost become synonymous with each other. The all-day broadcast began with this broadcast in 2006. The dignified, poignant coverage stands out as a huge commitment to this national day of tribute.

 Tangi for Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu

Coverage of the Māori Queen's tangi and funeral spread across three networks and streamed live to the world. It was a massive occasion for Māori and all New Zealanders - more than 430,000 people watched. I can't recall any other occasion of this magnitude broadcast in Māori television history. Moe mai e Te Arikinui.

 Marae - 2008 Māori Election Special

Long-running current affairs show Marae was the 'bones' of Koha given another body. A feature is the immediacy of the live-to-air component, mixed with pre-recorded general items. One of the high points is the post-election interviews with successful Māori candidates.



An alignment of stars in the mid-year sky known as Matariki (the Pleiades) signals the Māori New Year; a time of remembering and renewal. Read More >

"A window into the Māori world ..."

Whai Ngata lays out the kaupapa behind his inaugural Matariki 2009 selection of “iconic Māori programmes ...” Read More >

He Mihi

NZ On Screen would like to acknowledge Māori Television Service, Screentime Limited, TVNZ, TVNZ Archives, NZ Film Commission, Robin Scholes and Screenline.  Thanks also to the Auckland War Memorial Museum for the use of the manu tukutuku image and zAmb0ni for the Pleiades photo.