Māori and Pacific Islanders take the stage in capital

9:54 am on 2 June 2017

Māori and Pacific Island actors are taking centre stage at an arts festival kicking off in Wellington today.

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Curator Hone Kouka said the festival's opening night show at the Opera House in Wellington has sold out. Photo: RNZ / Leigh McLachlan

The Kia Mau Festival showcases contemporary plays and dances by Māori and Pacific Islanders.

Curator Hone Kouka said the reason he started the festival was to promote indigenous work and to make sure it keeps being made in the capital.

"I wanted to see more Māori and Pacific Island work on the main stages in Wellington," he said.

"It's only three years that the festivals been going but we are opening at the Opera House and it has sold out."

That sold out opening show tonight is Tiki Taane Mahuta which features kiwi musician Tiki Taane and aerial performances, hip hop and kapa haka.

There will be 14 plays or shows across the Wellington region until 24 June, including at BATS theatre and Te Papa Tongarewa.

The Riverside Kings actors during rehearsal.

The Riverside Kings actors during rehearsal. Photo: RNZ / Leigh McLachlan

First time director Natano Keni co-wrote the play Riverside Kings which was created for the festival.

"Kia Mau Festival is uplifting - uplifting culture and uplifting us as artists," he said.

"It is getting into the little nooks of New Zealand that we have not really yet found, so reconnecting."

Te Hau Winitana, Manarangi Mua, Mapihi Kelland – performers in Fire in the Water, Fire in the Sky

Te Hau Winitana, Manarangi Mua, Mapihi Kelland - performers in Fire in the Water, Fire in the Sky. Photo: RNZ / Leigh McLachlan

His play is set in the little nook of Timberlea, a suburb of Upper Hutt where Mr Keni is from.

He said the festival presents a lot of opportunities for Māori and Pacific Island actors but there could be more.

"Being a first time director you go 'damn' that is what it is all about, it is about making and creating opportunities for yourself and also for others."

Natano Keni co-wrote the play Riverside Kings.

Natano Keni co-wrote the play Riverside Kings. Photo: RNZ / Leigh McLachlan

Mīria George is presenting the show Fire in the Water, Fire in the Sky.

"I wanted to create a piece that was a modern statement on climate change and colonisation," she said.

Ms George said one of the songs that is harmonised by three women is about a longing for a different way of life.

"I know that we are all experiencing across the Pacific Islands and Aotearoa New Zealand the effects of climate change, of tourism, of the agricultural industry within our rohe and within our whānau."

Miria George

Mīria George said the show Fire in the Water, Fire in the Sky is about a longing for a different way of life. Photo: RNZ / Leigh McLachlan

A group of indigenous performers including Native Americans, Aborigines and Hawaiians have arrived in Wellington to mark the event.

Mr Kouka said the aim was to create an international circuit for indigenous theatre and dance performances.

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