Towards the New Whare Tapere: The creative potential of mātauranga Māori in the performing arts

Whare tapere were pā based ‘houses’ of storytelling, dances, music, games, puppets and other entertainments. This research explores how fragments of traditional knowledge concerning the whare tapere can be used in a contemporary arts project.

The Ōrotokare Trust, led by principal investigator Professor Charles Royal, commenced this research in 2008. It includes several elements:
1. Whakaahua (coming to form): an approach to performance
2. Karetao (puppets): creation of new karetao and performances
3. Tākaro (games): understanding tākaro in history and preparing new tākaro programmes
4. Kōrero: the history and literature of whare tapere and its conversion into performance.

The Trust convened their first whare tapere in 2010 and at the second whare tapere in 2011, they presented a performance of Te Kārohirohi: The Light Dances, a new dance work by Louise Pōtiki-Bryant in collaboration with Charles. This work explores ideas of haka-dance found in the histories and traditions of the whare tapere. The whare tapere day comprised tākaro, performances of taonga pūoro and mōteatea chanting, a presentation of karetao and the new dance work.

“We have several aims with this project. The first is to establish a contemporary theatre tradition based on and as an expression of mātauranga Māori. Second, we wish to use the whare tapere as a way by which to engage with and yield the creative potential of a Māori community. Finally, we wish to use whare tapere as an indigenising process, a way by which to nurture a kinship based relationship between a community and their natural environment,” says Professor Royal.

The Ōrotokare Trust has successfully convened three whare tapere arising from their research in the current period. A major report including video, text and images is in preparation and will be delivered in November.

Visit to read more about this project and watch a documentary.

Conference presentations

Royal, C. (2012, April). A modern view of mana. Keynote address to the New Zealand Psychological Society & New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists Joint Conference. Wellington, New Zealand.
Royal, C. (2012, October). Towards the new whare tapere. Keynote address at the Te Hotu Manawa Māori Conference. Taipā, New Zealand.
Royal, C. (2012, June). International Indigenous Development Research Conference 2012. Opening address at theInternational Indigenous Development Research Conference 2012. Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, Auckland, New Zealand.

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