Meet the Makers: Mere Boynton

29 August 2022

Te Hui Ahurei Reo Māori o Te Whanganui-a-Tara (The Māori Language Festival of Wellington) opens in September to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Māori language petition to Parliament and coincides with Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori celebrations. Mere Boynton, Director Ngā Toi Māori for Tāwhiri (producers of the Festival), tells us more about this exciting new addition to Wellington's festival calendar.

Te Hui Ahurei is a festival celebrating te reo Māori. Is this the first time a festival like this has been held in Wellington?

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori has been celebrated since 1975 and is currently spearheaded by Te Puni Kōkiri and Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori , with many organizations including schools, libraries, and government departments participating.

The difference with Te Hui Ahurei is that mana whenua of Wellington including Te Rūnanganui o Te Ati Āwa, Taranaki Whānui Ki Te Upoko o Te Ika, Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira and the Wellington Council approached Tāwhiri to build a festival in September that celebrates and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Māori language petition which was delivered to Parliament on 14 September 1972 and asked for active recognition of te reo Māori. It had over 30,000 signatures and became the starting point for a significant revitalisation of te reo.

As a new festival, what are the aims of Te Hui Ahurei?

The aim is to celebrate te reo Māori and to uplift and raise the vibration of te reo Māori among our community. It is a festival to celebrate both whakawhānaungatanga (families and relationships) and tohungatanga (excellence). It is a festival to uplift Mana Whenua as we love bomb Pōneke with art and performances.

The programme is varied and spans a number of different disciplines. How was the programme developed?

I tried to curate performances and activities that would appeal to a Māori audience and to non-te reo speaking New Zealanders, showcasing top Māori performing arts and artists including Kapa Haka, music, film and visual arts. It was also important to programme activities that would appeal to whānau and all generations from tamariki to kaumātua. It is a celebration of te reo Māori and an acknowledgement of all those people and ancestors who have paved the way for the revitalisation of te reo Māori so that our mokopuna can stand with pride and dignity.

Ko te reo Māori te ōhakī a te hunga kua whetūrangitia e tū rangatira ai ngā uri whakaheke.

Some key events in the Festival include I Will Not Speak Māori, a multi-platform, multi-media installation is a culmination of sculpture, projection, performance and sound installations that work together to tell the story of Tame Iti, Tūhoe artist and Māori rights icon, and fluent speaker and advocate of te reo Māori.  This free event runs from 1 to 17 September and includes a range of activities on Wellington’s waterfront including performances, conversations and artwork.

Te Pae is a multi-sensory experience with music, movement and live art featuring some of New Zealand’s top artists, including Sliver Scroll finalist Troy Kingi, Ria Hall, Kurahapainga Te Ua, Dr. Jeremy Mayall, Horomona Horo and Regan Balzer. Te Pae will have one show only on 16 September – you won’t want to miss it, so get your tickets now.

The other really exciting event is Te Māui o Nāianei – Thoroughly Modern Māui in which musical theatre star Rutene Spooner channels Māui, the Māori Superman of legend, complete with rhinestones and glitter!  This bilingual cabaret reincarnates Māui into a rock star through quick-witted songs, hilarious antics, and heart-felt storytelling. Te Māui o Nāianei – Thoroughly Modern Māui has two shows on 14 and 15 Septmber and tickets include a complimentary drink and nibbles.

It’s one of the first times we’ve seen a Choose Your Price option for an event in Aotearoa. What made you decide to adopt this model for this event?

Tāwhiri introduced Choose Your Price for the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts in February of this year. However we didn’t get to try it out because we were shut down by COVID. So now we get to test it out with Te Hui Ahurei and it is proving to be very popular, enabling Māori and New Zealanders who are within the low income bracket the ability to pay what they can; it is effectively a koha system.

What are the best events for non-Māori speakers to attend?

The best events for non-te reo speakers to attend include Ahi kā: I noho koniahi ! Ki ngā taringa i kite ! an audio visual art installation which enables people to immerse themselves in te reo Māori of mana whenua and the environment in a sensory way, without expectation or judgement. Te Māui o Nāianei: Thoroughly Modern Māui is a must see because it is a fun and entertaining way to engage in te reo Māori, have a puku laugh, enjoy the music, the glitter, the hospitality and maybe learn some kupu hou some new Māori words!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Te Hui Ahurei?

Nau mai haere e hoa mā. Join us for a magical festival that will uplift and inspire through a joyful series of arts experiences that champion te reo Māori in the City.

Te Hui Ahurei runs throughout September 2022 with ticketed events from 14 - 18 September . Tickets are on sale now.

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