... a Theatre Marae project that seeks to unravel the shame and hurt that clouds & distorts the subjects of Ngau Whiore (sexual abuse) and Whakamomori (suicide), and is a creative, therapeutic, and kaupapa Māori investigation and response to these issues.  


John Smythe for Theatreview

Ngau Whiore

“Tail biting”

enduring shame

seemingly unshiftable

lashed, locked

encased in

every cell

wicked demon

cunning cavorted

ever present

who gave permission?

from whence originating?

that those you

co : create




to a living hell

in one form

or another


will not bite back

Te Rākau received funding from Creative New Zealand to develop our latest work THE SWING for an invited audience from Government, Council, Health and service providers, Counsellors and Psychologists, Iwi, Māori community advocates and Education. These organisations, representatives, or individuals are largely charged with the job of tackling big issues facing New Zealanders, and particularly Māori. There is an urgent need for strategies, resources, and hands-on engagement with the problems our people are facing. 

We would now like to tour this work throughout Aotearoa,

to communities who need this kōrero brought into the light

- prisons, marae, social services, hauora providers,

Government Agencies and Departments, training institutions,

mental health hui and regional festivals to name a few.

If you can support our mahi in any way, or would like more information 

on how we could bring this project to your community please contact us.


THE SWING brings together a rōpū comprising health professionals, theatre practitioners and community members to develop a live performance under the mantle of Theatre Marae. Theatre Marae applies the complementary spiritual, social and political concepts of the Greek theatre and Marae into a performance hui. It is a uniquely New Zealand form of theatre that first appeared in mainstream venues during the 1990 NZ International Festival of the Arts.

The project is three-fold:

As a play it weaves the pūrākau of Tānemahuta and Hinetītama to portray a whānau struggling to recover from the shadow of ngau whiore and whakamomori.


As a community based rangahau project it is a hui for community members to process their lived experiences and research the resonance of the pūrākau through a Māori performance practice.


As an event it opens a public space for communities to connect with the wider community, organisations, policy makers and experts tasked with addressing incest, child abuse, family violence and suicide in Aotearoa-NZ.

This show has come about as a community led response to current thinking in sexual abuse services and therapy practices — what works and what doesn't. For the past 20 years Jim and Helen have been working with survivors, perpetrators and family members affected by trauma as a programme facilitator, group therapist, researcher and more recently, registered psychologist. For most Māori drawn to group settings they have worked in, they have reported experiences of 1:1 talk therapies being negative, retraumatising, judgmental and culturally irrelevant.


Kaupapa Māori group based therapies and holistic services that are provided in Māori communities such as Iwi social services are effective but underfunded (or not funded at all), and do not meet the standards for ACC sensitive claims services.

More recent studies in what works best in trauma therapies is complementary with traditional Māori practices that invoke body oriented and group based approaches to healing. This has informed our current research on applying the healing and educational potential of pūrākau in the context of the whare tapere (traditional house of entertainment).

Writer Helen Pearse-Otene is a registered and practising Psychologist pursuing her PHD and Jim Moriarty is a Registered Psychiatric Nurse. They have spent the last few months working therapeutically with a group of women who were sexually harmed by family members, in response-based practices, exploring ways of moving forward. Jim and Helen have brought this work to the rehearsal room floor as Directors to inform rehearsals.


Through the story of one whānau dealing with incest and suicide, mirrored by the the pūrakau of Tāne Mahuta and Hine Nui Te Po, and processes of restoration, THE SWING takes a detailed, researched and caring account on one family’s attempt to manage Ngau Whiore.

If you can support our mahi in any way, or would like more information on how we could bring this project to your community please contact us.


"Yes indeed, it most certainly does cry out to be acknowledged, celebrated and supported – on behalf of all those it seeks to serve... As theatre, The Swing is totally engaging at every level. As a kaupapa for ‘breaking the silence’ it is invaluable. It deserves unstinting support and a long life on marae, in community halls, on campuses – and in theatres and at festivals that see their roles as truly serving the interests of their communities."

John Smythe for Theatreview

"What a magnificent production - filled with wairua, with power and grace and healing and truth."

Katherine Wyeth


"I was really excited by the theatre marae form and how it both challenges and embraces what a theatre space can be. I’ve not felt so involved in theatrical storytelling or felt a theatre space was shared so fully with me as an audience member for a long time." 

Max Kirk

"The Swing is both a powerful work of art and a dialogue New Zealand must have. The Swing not only is a beautiful exploration of Māori, but it has the potential to enable people to have help in both suicide and abuse as it promotes the opportunity for them to connect with support systems. This is the opportunity for Art to exercises a social and therapeutic role that is meaningful and life changing."

Fabiola Haru Stevenson


The first production of The Swing

was developed with the following people:


Helen Pearse-Otene

Kaituhi / Kaitito Waiata / Kaihuawaere  |  Writer, Composer & Facilitator

Jim Moriarty

Kaitohu / Kaihuawaere  |  Director &Facilitator

Aneta Pond

Kaihautū  |  Producer

Lisa Maule

Kaiwhakahaere Whakaaturanga / Kaihoahoa Tūrama   |   Production Manager & Lighting Designer

Haami Hawkins

Kaiwhakahaere Papamahi / Kaitito / Ringa Puoro  |  Stage Manager, Composer & Musician

Tony De Goldi

Kaihoahoa Pae Whakaari  |  Set Designer

Cara Louise Waretini

Kaihoahoa Kākahu  |  Costume Designer

Kezia Maule

Kaiawhina Hoahoa Kākahu  |  Costume Assistant

Kimberley Skipper

Kaitito Nekehanga / Kaiwhakaako  |  Choreographer & Tutor

Manuel Solomon

Kaitito Nekehanga / Kaiwhakaako  |  Choreographer & Tutor

Sinead Cameron

Kaiwhakaako  |  Tutor




Arihia Hayvice, Nova Te Hāpua & Paige Wilson


Manuel Solomon


Angie Meiklejohn


Maria-Rose MacDonald


Saul Kolio


Noel Hayvice


Hariata Moriarty


Tamati Moriarty