Wi Kuki Kaa was a diverse, formidable presence on New Zealand stage and screen for almost 30 years. His iconic roles included Iwi in Barry Barclay-directed feature Ngati, Rewi Maniapoto in TV series The Governor, Wiremu in Geoff Murphy-directed Utu, the koroua in Trinity Roots' music video Little Things, a scarecrow maker in Worzel Gummidge Down Under, and many more.
A passionate advocate for Māori creative control, director Merata Mita (1942 — 2010) chronicled landmark moments of protest and division in Aotearoa. Her work included Patu!, a documentary on the 1981 Springbok tour, and Mauri (1988), only the second feature to have a Māori woman as director. She features in documentaries Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen and Merata Mita - Making Waves.
Ernie Leonard spent time as a soldier, a railways clerk and public relations officer. His first television job was as an actor on Pukemanu, and he became a household name co-presenting wrestling show On the Mat. In 1986 Leonard became the first head of TVNZ's Māori Programmes Department. When he retired, a search of the TVNZ Archives database yielded 38,000 references to him or programmes he'd been associated with.
Tainui Stephens is a Kiwi screen taonga. Since joining Koha as a reporter in 1984, he has brought many Māori stories to television, and worked on everything from Marae to Māori Television's version of It's in the Bag. Among the notable documentaries he has directed are Māori Battalion doco March to Victory and award-winning show The New Zealand Wars. He was a producer on Vincent Ward film Rain of the Children.
Whai Ngata worked in Māori broadcasting at Television New Zealand for 25 years, a period when the quantity of Māori broadcasting underwent a major expansion. Starting as a reporter, he rose to become TVNZ's general manager of Māori Programming, a post he held from 1994 until retiring in 2008. Ngata was named an Officer of the Order of New Zealand Merit in 2007. He passed away on 3 April 2016.
Paora Maxwell spent three years as Chief Executive of Māori Television. He began in the job in May 2014 after time heading TVNZ’s Māori and Pacific Programmes Department, and 15 years making shows for his company Te Aratai Productions. Maxwell was set to step down from Māori Television in August 2017.
Anzac Wallace made one of the most memorable debuts in New Zealand cinema when he starred as avenging guerilla leader Te Wheke in classic Māori Western Utu. The former trade union delegate followed it with movies The Silent One (1984) and Mauri (1988) and pioneering Māori TV series E Tipu E Rea. He passed away on 8 April 2019.
His name was synonymous with entertainment in New Zealand. Dubbed Ol' Brown Eyes — Māoridom's version of Frank Sinatra — Howard Morrison's voice and charisma carried him through decades of success both here and abroad. From the Howard Morrison Quartet to time as a solo performer, Morrison's take on songs like 'How Great Thou Art' ensured his waiata an enduring place at the top of local playlists.
Barry Barclay — director of landmark TV series Tangata Whenua and feature film Ngati — was a longtime campaigner for the right of indigenous people to tell their own stories, to their own people. In 2004 he was made an Arts Foundation Laureate, and in 2007 a Member of the NZ Order of Merit. Barclay passed away on 19 February 2008, after publishing his acclaimed book Mana Tuturu.
German-raised Alexander Behse has produced a run of documentaries exploring Māori subjects, from ta moko to te reo Shakespeare, to acclaimed Tūhoe HQ story Ever the Land. Behse got an MA in production from UTS Sydney, and has many TV credits as an editor. He made his directing debut with 2012 TV documentary Nazi Hunter, and was at the helm of award-winning TV series Radar Across the Pacific.