Bringing new audiences to te ao Māori

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

When Te Matatini first began in 1972, it was known as the Polynesian Festival and first screened on TVNZ.

And, after a number of festivals broadcast on Whakaata Māori, this year saw Te Matatini return to its original screen home.

TVNZ deputy content director Nevak Rogers (Rongowhakaata, Tonga) is more than proud to have seen the festival go ahead, not only because it was on TVNZ but ultimately as something to look forward to as challenges (Covid-19 and weather events) brought lots of difficulties around the motu.

She was delighted to see te ao Māori on full display bringing kaihaka and whānau together but she was also thrilled as her son took to the stage for his first stand.

“My feet are ngenge but my heart is full,” she says.

Over the competition's four days there were 1.7 million online views, and more than 700,000 people watched on TVNZ 2.

Biggest Māori event returns to mainstream TV.

'Overwhelmingly positive'

Covid-19 delayed the festival for four years but that was a further challenge given how many changes there have been in audience behaviour around broadcasting and digital media.

“Because audience behaviour has moved significantly in the past four years, Haka Translate, having all of those interfaces with TVNZ+ as the platform as well as being able to get hold of people, there were a lot of communicating issues.

“I don’t know if TVNZ people had experienced Te Matatini before. So, knowing what it was going to take to pull that broadcast together, we had an incredible working around the clock on it.”

Having the biggest kapa haka festival in the world back on mainstream television is not without critical feedback, which TVNZ has experienced before with Te Rauhiringa Brown presenting the weather and using te reo Māori on the 6pm news.

“There are a lot of racist people out there. You’ll get the odd one of those but we just push them all aside and ignore that feedback and tell them to go watch a different platform.

“But it’s been overwhelmingly positive… there were pictures of people crying who haven’t had the privilege of growing up around our language. It’s like a missing piece they didn’t know was there.”

Public Interest Journalism, funded through NZ On Air