The underTOW at Te Papa in 2015

Te Rākau Theatre with support from Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangātira, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Te Puni Kōkiri presents ‘The underTOW’ – A quartet of plays about the settlement of Wellington – past, present and future

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua – Man disappears but the land remains.

The-underTOW-graphics-A4-high-res

Te Rākau Theatre Company is excited to announce a new series of plays to bring Wellington’s rich history to life, with support from Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangātira, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Te Puni Kōkiri.

In support of Ngāti Toa’s residency at Te Papa, Aotearoa’s longest surviving Māori theatre company, Te Rākau, will present their work over the next three years at the museum, taking audiences on a journey into Wellington’s past, present and future with writer Helen Pearse-Otene’s quartet of plays about the settlement of Wellington – The underTOW.

The series, beginning in 1840 and concluding with a look into the not –so- distant future, offers a uniquely Māori perspective on the city’s history and the ordinary people who achieved the extraordinary.

The project is a special one for Jim Moriarty, of Ngāti Toa descent, who along with Jerry Banse formed Te Rākau in 1989. Jim has spent decades working throughout Aotearoa and around the world as an actor and director. Here in Aotearoa he and Te Rākau remain dedicated to supporting communities through the company’s marae-based theatre programme.

“This series of plays about the settlement of Wellington, starting with The Ragged in 1840, has always been a passion of mine and Helen’s – to unravel our collective history to better grow our understanding of each other; the diverse cultures that make up Aotearoa today, but in particular, the stories of our Māori and Pākehā ancestors. 

The underTOW series at Te Papa, the home of our national taonga, and in conjunction with Ngāti Toa Rangātira’s residency, provides a perfect opportunity to venture beyond historical amnesia and look at some truths about our collective and sometimes murky past.” Jim Moriarty

In her research for the series, Pearse-Otene drew on local stories, including a mixture of diary entries and letters by settlers. While the plays themselves are works of fiction they are deeply rooted in history and the sentiments of the times in which they are set.

“Although I consider Wellington to be “home” this town is still a mystery to me in many ways. I am often amazed by the old stories that are hidden beneath the surface of this shaky ground waiting to be uncovered – stories that speak of uncertainty, struggle, misunderstanding, resilience, and hope. To me, the underTOW series is a love letter to Pōneke and to the treaty that made this country.” Helen Pearse-Otene

The series begins in 1840 with The Ragged, which explores early relationships between settlers, the New Zealand Company and the Tangata Whenua.

Part 2 – Dog and Bone is set in 1869 during the second Taranaki campaign of the New Zealand Wars and gives insight into the origin of the negative stereotypes that are perpetuated about Māori.

Part 3 is Public Works, set during World War I when the Public Works Act was used to build schools, churches, public buildings and war memorials, but also to alienate Māori from their lands.

The final instalment is The Landeaters where we face the day after tomorrow.

Te Rākau Theatre looks forward to welcoming a diverse audience to Te Papa’s Soundings Theatre over the coming years to laugh, cry, learn, forget, understand, appreciate, challenge and, most of all, participate in Wellington’s history.