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.
Don Selwyn, ONZM, was an actor, casting director and mentor to a host of talented Māori who went on to work in film and television. Selwyn’s long acting resume includes 1970s historical epic The Governor and police show Mortimer’s Patch. He also directed The Māori Merchant of Venice, the first feature film in te reo Māori.
Rowley Habib — also known as Rore Hapipi — was one of the first writers to bring a genuinely Māori perspective to New Zealand stage and screen. His play Death of the Land is seen as a landmark in the development of Māori theatre. In 1983 Habib won a Feltex Award for land rights drama The Protestors, part of a trio of pioneering one-off plays for television. Habib passed away on 3 April 2016.
The late Hone Tūwhare (1922-2008) remains one of New Zealand's most loved and respected poets. Tūwhare has been the subject of numerous documentaries. He also wrote short stories and plays, and the drama Eel for anthology television series E Tipu e Rea. Tuwhare died on 16 January 2008 in Dunedin.
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.