New play in te reo Māori for blind tamariki

By Jessica Tyson, Regan Paranihi

It was an exciting day for 200 blind and special needs tamariki who experienced a new play performed all in te reo Māori.

The play, Te Kuia me te Pūngāwerewere, is based on the classic children’s book The Kuia and the Spider, a comedic prequel that takes audiences on a journey into spider world.

It was brought to life through audio description at BLENNZ Homai Campus, a specialist school for students who are kapo (blind), deafblind or have low vision, including those with additional disabilities.

CEO of Kapo Māori Aoteraoa Chrissie Carson says it is the first time a play had been audio described in te reo Māori.

She says some of the children had been studying the story through their audiobooks.

“A lot of our children in the kapo community, not only Māori but non-Māori, are wanting to learn te reo,” Carson told Te Ao Māori News reporter Regan Paranihi.

“Through audio description our children are still able to be immersed in the reo and hearing what is happening around them.”

One of the voices on the play is spoken by Jamus Webster who volunteered for the role.

“This is a very important kaupapa. There’s a lot of blind people out there who don't know what's in front of them, so they haven't seen it, but they imagine it in their mind,” says Webster.

Webster, of Te Arawa, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāpuhi and Te Whānau-a-Apanui says the most difficult part of his job was using the words that were easy for the tamariki to understand.

“The difficult thing is that a lot of them have been born kapo and they don't know what colour is, so how do you describe it, how do you see this.”

Webster says it’s an experience he will never forget.

“Today has been an eye-opener for me. I now know where I can improve and what direction to take when doing this work. This type of work is beneficial for everyone and anyone.”

About Te Kuia me te Pungawerewere

In the beloved tale, the kuia (female elder) argues with a large spider living in her kitchen and competes to see who can do the best weaving.

While in the midst of their daily bickering, Kui and Pūpai are suddenly thrust from their home in Paekākāriki and into spider world.

There amongst the spiders, they must work together to save the habitat from human destruction.

The play is part of the Auckland Arts Festival.