Bringing local pūrakau to life on stage

Issue: Volume 102, Number 10

Posted: 3 August 2023
Reference #: 1HAb6u

All over the country, schools and kura have been coming up with innovative ways to introduce the Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories curriculum into their learning experiences. In the heart of the Waikato region, Morrinsville Intermediate School staff and students have taken the opportunity bring local pūrakau to life on the stage.

The healer (played by Trelise) sits over Te Waharoa's death bed (played by Petelo).

The healer (played by Trelise) sits over Te Waharoa's death bed (played by Petelo).

When thinking about how to implement the Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories curriculum at their kura, Morrinsville Intermediate School decided to start their journey close to home.  

The result is the school’s latest stage production – The Time Travelling Waka. 

The Time Travelling Waka takes the audience on a voyage of discovery through the ages and in the process has given the opportunity for learning, not just for students, but staff and the Waikato town’s wider community.  

Led by teacher Bailee Foulds, the school started with a focus on the significant pūrakau of local iwi Ngāti Hauā.  

With support and close consultation from Kaumatua Te Ao Marama Maaka (cultural advisor to Ngāti Hauā), Tumuaki Hone Thompson and other Ngāti Hauā kaumatua, Bailee comprehensively researched online, read numerous books and listened to oral stories, to map out a storyline and write a play about the history of their local area.  

The production’s timeline begins in the 1500s with siblings Hauā, Hape and Ruru journeying to Te Au o Waikato and then shifts to the battle between Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Hinerangi and Ngāti Tāwhaki, in which one of Hauā’s sons, Werewere, is killed and Ngāti Hauā is gifted land in the Matamata-Piako area.  

It then moves to the 1700s and the birth of Te Waharoa, paramount chief of Ngāti Hauā.  

The story continues into the 1800s and the birth of Te Waharoa’s son, Tarapīriri Te Waharoa in 1805, who was baptised in 1839 as Wiremu Tamihana and anoints the first Māori King – Te Arikinui Kīngi Potatau Te Wherowhero.

Empowered to succeed  

Sam, Kees, Petelo and Campbell perform the haka Tau Ka Tau.

Sam, Kees, Petelo and Campbell perform the haka Tau Ka Tau.

Morrinsville Intermediate principal Jenny Clark says from her perspective she is really proud of the way they’ve been able to bring the Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories curriculum to life by showcasing local pūrakau on the stage.  

This has created an authentic opportunity for their ākonga and the wider community to connect with the Understand, Know, Do framework, which is the process underpinning the curriculum refresh, she says.

“For those students in the production, they will now have a lifelong understanding due to the innovative way in which they have been involved in The Time Travelling Waka,” she says.  

“As principal I am very proud of the way Bailee Foulds, along with other staff, were empowered to succeed through their courage and internal commitment to ‘make it happen’.”  

Students understanding and knowing local stories has been part of the school’s strategic plan for the past two years, she says.  

“But we feel adding the ‘Do’ element this year has certainly been a game changer.”  

A lasting legacy  

A group of Ngāti Hauā wahine, toa and tamariki gather around Kahurangi (played by Olivia) and her baby.

A group of Ngāti Hauā wahine, toa and tamariki gather around Kahurangi (played by Olivia) and her baby.

Bailee says their process started with building a base storyline and presenting a scene breakdown to a group of Ngāti Hauā representatives.  

This involved reading different novels and articles, a huge amount of online research, as well as listening to some of the local pūrakau through oral storytelling.  

“It was exciting to be able to work alongside Ngāti Hauā to develop such a rich learning experience for our kura and wider community,” she says.  

As part of the planning process Bailee was also joined by the school’s Mahi Tahi Roopu.  

“These Year 8 students were involved in organising many key elements of the production from writing rap lyrics and sections of dialogue to planning the initial concepts for our set and props,” she says.  

“It was an honour seeing our tamariki rise to the occasion. We had many ākonga who were pushed well out of their comfort zones.  

“For the size of our kura (320 students) I was very impressed that we were able to include almost 130 eager students to perform various roles!”  

During the production, every time the waka moved through the past, this was accompanied with waiata, haka, or dance.  

“I believe this was a really effective way to transition between different time periods and set changes while engaging our audience and showcasing the talent in our kura.”  

Unwavering support  

Bailee says she feels privileged to have been able to retell this history with the unwavering support from the kura, community and Ngāti Hauā.  

“We performed to five local schools, including our own, and performed two evening shows to sell-out audiences of 250 people each night.”  

To ensure the rest of the school also got to ‘understand’ the pūrakau of the local area, they made up the audience for the first technical run through.  

Other local schools were also invited to the production, including Ngāti Hauā School.  

Jenny says through their innovation they’re aiming to have a sustainable impact by enabling the stories to be re-told and shared in the future.  

She says the school is appreciative of a generous Creatives in Schools grant from the Ministry of Education that has helped to bring The Time Travelling Waka to the stage.  

This came with the assistance of Toni Garson, who was able to bring invaluable theatre experience to the production, contributing to its success.  

The production has been commercially filmed to ensure the school has a sustainable resource for future teaching and learning purposes.  

“This has been a very ambitious project, but one which aligns beautifully with our school vision, ‘Empowering Learners to Succeed’, and empowering both students and staff,” she says.  

Many members of Ngāti Hauā attended the final show and were very complimentary of how it all came together.  

“At the end of the matinée show, we had whānau in the audience spontaneously haka our cast. So very humbling but awesome for our tamariki.”

Maia (played by Teegan) listens to her Kuia (played by DJ) telling the stories of Ngāti Hauā.

Maia (played by Teegan) listens to her Kuia (played by DJ) telling the stories of Ngāti Hauā.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:45 pm, 3 August 2023

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