Maaka Pepene is a dancer/choreographer of Tūhoe Potiki, Ngāti Hine and Ngāti Awa ancestry who has performed with leading NZ companies including Atamira Dance Company, Touch Compass, Auckland Dance Company, Black Grace, Taiao Dance Theatre and Pacific Sisters.
Maaka has choreographed, directed and performed for theatre, film, music and television in Taiwan, Australia, the U.S.A and throughout Aotearoa. A brief chronology of his choreographic works include Brass Poppies, The Whale Rider Stage Production, Tatau Rangi, Te Wero Interdigitate, Ether, A Quick Look at Sound, Light and Time, The Māori Merchant of Venice and Maui Pōtiki.
Maaka’s debut full length work ‘Memoirs of Active Service’ was named the NZ Listeners 'Best New Work by an Emerging Choreographer' in 2006, with Maaka also acknowledged as an outstanding performer in the 'Best Male Dancer' category in 2007.
Maaka’s last work for Atamira, 'Te Houhi - The People and the Land are One' was crafted in 2011 using dance, original music, video and narrative to connect vital elements of his Tūhoe lineage whilst paying respect to both the people and the land of Ngāti Haka Patuheuheu
Te Houhi - The People and the Land are One (2011)
Te Houhi is inspired by an incredible story from the tribal history of choreographer Maaka Pepene. Te Houhi explores the hope and unity of people who are affected by injustices common to Maori during colonisation.
The work is based around the historical event that saw 14,000 acres of prime land fraudulently acquired by two Pakeha in the late 1800’s, which resulted in the eviction of the local people. Te Houhi will also explore the Ringatu faith and thus Te Kooti, the Maori prophet.
Deep in the misty Urewera ranges Te Kooti, Maori prophet and freedom fighter finds refuge from government pursuit in the Tuhoe people. Labeled rebels for harboring Te Kooti, land confiscation, Scorched Earth military tactics, and war ensue leaving Tuhoe land and people tragically ravaged and dispossessed.
When evicted from their land in the 1800’s the Tuhoe people were prevented from taking their Wharenui, it was inlaid with early Maori figurative art, and central to the Ringatu faith which was precious to the hearts of the people. The Wharenui was turned into a school house and shearing shed.
In 1908 the government intervened and agreed to return the Wharenui to its rightful owners. The government offered to pay for the transportation of the Whare from Te Houhi to Waiohou, however the people declined and in a poignant act symbolising the spirit and political defiance characteristic of Ngai Tuhoe, they carried their sacred building several miles by hand to a new settlement, reclaiming with it their faith in each other, their land, and Te Kooti.
This new dance work references more recent contemporary issues surrounding the Tuhoe people and their particular relationship to the crown and the CNI land agreement involving Tuhoe and other central north island iwi.
"Atamira Dance Company's's beautifully crafted new Te Houhi - The People and the Land are One draws on intricately connected layers of dance, video imagery and narrated text to share poignant ancestral stories from dancer and choreographer Maaka Pepene's Ngai Tuhoe lineage."
- Raewyn Whyte, NZ Herald
Memoirs of Active Service (2009)
A unique and poignant dance work commemorating love and the year of the veteran, Memoirs of Active Service received rave reviews and audience acclaim when it debuted in 2006.
An ex service man, Maaka Pepene has devised and based this work on his grandfathers diary which was recorded during his service in WWII. Memoirs of Active Service it is also inspired by the 28th Maori Battalion and 1940’s New Zealand.
A moving and beautiful love story inspired by the keeper of the diary, Memoirs of Active Service is about ordinary New Zealanders being asked to do extraordinary things. We watch the journey of five characters from a rural Maori community, their transformation from pre- war to enlisting, training and then life afterwards, but always at the heart is the love and the sacrifices made by New Zealander’s during this time.
Memoirs of Active Service features songs of the era and an original sound-score composed by Paddy Free, lighting design by Vanda Karolczak, video design by Louise Potiki Bryant and narration by Jarod Rawiri. Performers include acclaimed dancers Maaka Pepene, Justine Hohaia, Jack Gray and Dolina Wehipeihana. Tamihana Paurini and Pare Randall will be joining the dance crew at Rose Centre while Tai Royal will be performing in Hamilton, Gisborne, Orewa and Browns Bay. Talented costume designers Julie Stevens and Debbie Hinden (cofounders and members of the MOA designer collective store) will be creating 1940’s inspired outfits for the performers.
Remember. I am always thinking of your sweetheart, no matter how long I am away from you, don’t worry my dearest, I’ll come back to you. Yours till the stars lose their glory,
Charles Jack Murphy 29 July 1944 (Maaka Pepene’s Grandfather)
"The final scene is a gorgeous and touching requiem, to Albinoni's Adagio, beautifully conceived and performed."
- Bernadette Rae, 2006