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  • Writer's pictureTE RĀKAU

Digital theatre project meets ‘urgent need’ for healing

Updated: May 20

October 2023


Te Rākau is going digital to open discussions about sexual abuse and suicide next month.

 

A group of young women doing pukana performing with poi
The Swing weaves the ancestral pūrākau of Tānemahuta and Hinetītama into a contemporary portrayal of a whānau struggling to recover from the effects of ngau whiore (incest) and whakamomori (suicide).

A Māori theatre company based in Te Upoko o Te Ika is going digital to open discussions about sexual abuse and suicide next month.


Te Rākau Hua o Te Wao Tapu’s goal is to inspire action with its hard-hitting filmed version of Helen Pearse-Otene’s critically acclaimed play, The Swing, premiering at Circa Theatre this November.


“Our hope is that every person working in social services, hauora, government or community services gets to see this incredible piece of digital theatre,” says Te Rākau kaitohu (director), Jim Moriarty.





Urgent need for solutions


The Swing weaves the ancestral pūrākau of Tānemahuta and Hinetītama into a contemporary portrayal of a whānau struggling to recover from the effects of ngau whiore (incest) and whakamomori (suicide).


Jim says the film will help communities and government agencies respond to these issues, by showing the real perspectives of families experiencing trauma.


“We’re seeing an urgent need for kaupapa Māori therapies and holistic services to bring these issues into the light, where ways of moving forward can be explored,” says Jim.


“Once you start talking to people about this stuff, you realise how hurt our communities really are: 1 in 3 people are saying they have experienced this at some point in their lives.

“Child abuse, sexual violence and suicide are big issues for us in Aotearoa New Zealand. The agencies and experts tasked with addressing this need to find new ways to connect with the community – The Swing is one of those ways.”


A community-led response


The Swing was developed through a kaupapa Māori research project hosted by Kōkiri Marae and Massey University, led by Te Rākau facilitator and kaituhi (author) Helen Pearse-Otene.


“We worked with a group of wāhine and tāne survivors and whānau members. Our aim was to meet the needs of Māori drawn to group settings, whose experience of one-on-one talk therapy was described as retraumatising, judgemental and culturally irrelevant.


“The Swing is a community-led response. It provides a crucial perspective on sexual abuse services and therapy practices.


“As a training or development experience for people working in those areas it holds immense value,” says Helen, who is also a registered psychologist.


Going digital to broaden access


Jim says Te Rākau was inspired to create a digital recording of its live theatre event thanks to feedback from early, community audiences of The Swing.


“The response has been unbelievable. Our audiences told us time and time again how vital this work is. What they need now is help accessing it,” says Jim.


“We wanted to make a contribution that would be affordable, familiar and accessible for the community groups who need this healing the most. That’s why we’ve gone the digital route and created this professional recording.

“It’s the same uplifting, engaging and brave kōrero as the original live theatre version. But now, we can take it into board rooms, training sessions, universities, social service and community spaces as a teaching tool.


Audiences can join Te Rākau for a viewing of The Swing and a kōrero with the creators behind this work at Circa Theatre 15 – 18 November 2023. Book online below.


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