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Profile image for Napi Waaka

Napi Waaka

Actor, Musician [Tainui, Ngāti Pikiao]

Te Napi Tutewehiwehi Waaka, OBE, was many things: orator, minister, composer, and co-founder of the Pātea Māori Club. He also contributed to two pioneering TV dramas on the New Zealand Wars. Raised in Mourea near Rotorua, Waaka began learning English at age 10. He played resistance leader Riwha Tītokowaru in 1971 teleplay The Killing of Kane. Off-screen, Napi encouraged real-life descendants to join the cast, training them in te reo. In the lead-up to historical TV epic The Governor (1977), he joined a series of hui, where he was asked to play Ngāpuhi chief Tāmati Wāka Nene. Waaka died on 10 November 2016, a day after he turned 81. Image: screen capture from 1971 teleplay The Killing of Kane.

Napi Waaka — a fluent speaker of te reo who did not learn English until the age of 10 — was especially concerned to 'make sure what was represented as Māori was genuine'; he recalled in 2012 that [director Chris] Thomson had given the cast every opportunity to use their knowledge and expertise, 'to be ourselves'. Writer Annabel Cooper on 1971 teleplay The Killing of Kane, in her 2018 book Filming the Colonial Past: The New Zealand Wars on Screen