Māori acting legend receives final farewell

By Regan Paranihi

Today legendary Māori actress, director and writer Nancy Brunning received her final farewell.

Raukawa Marae in Ōtaki was filled with many whom Brunning inspired throughout her time on this earth.

The morning service honoured the legacy Brunning has left behind and many paid homage to who she was as a mentor, friend and person. 

She was once a warrior but now the voice of the film and television industry has been silenced.

Temuera Morrison, who has been on set many times with Brunning was emotional and said, "It's hard to find the words for this treasure we've lost."

A close friend and partner in crime, Tanea Heke, added, "This is such a special day to acknowledge our mate who is a formidable wahine Māori in our industry."

Brunning has been an icon on stage as well as on both the silver and the big screen, her peers say her passing is a major loss in this industry.

"It’s a great loss for the theatre industry, the film and television industry and the Māori world," says Ani-Piki Tuari, who featured in Brunning's most recent play Witi's Wāhine.

"She almost single-handedly put together the Māori theatre community there is not one person in our community that has not been touched by Nancy Brunning," adds Heke.

"We've lost our leader," says Mere Boynton, another key actress in Witi's Wāhine.

She was famously known for her intelligence, her passion for performing as well as the Māori world.

Morrison says, "She was a humble woman, caring and nurtured the up and coming."

"She was a role model for me in the theatre industry. One of my biggest dreams was accomplished under her," adds Tuari.

Tama Waipara has been a part of Brunning's latest project before passing away and he says, "She graced us with her many skills that she surrounded us with."

Despite the feelings of sadness, her peers know it is time for them to step into her shoes and carry on her legacy.

"As sad and as pouri as today is. it’s also a day where my mate has put down her wero for us and it’s also the day that the rest of us step into that space," says Heke.

She also adds, "The hole will never be filled, but Nancy would expect us to carry on."

However, walking in her footsteps won't be easy.

"We will never be able to reach those high lofty mountains that our sister did, but what is she would have inspired so many that even in spite of us those rangatahi will come through cause that's always what her focus was."

Brunning will be remembered for her incredible career, her passion and for being a role model for the next generation.