Radiant rangatahi to take to the stage for Manawa Ora: Te Hīhiri

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

From critically acclaimed youth organisation Ngā Rangatahi Toa comes Manawa Ora: Te Hīhiri - an inspiring work of theatre that draws from experiences of some of Tāmaki Makurau’s most radiant rangatahi.

Executive producer & director Huia O’Sullivan (Te Ati Awa) says that, since the programme’s inception 10 years ago that started in South Auckland, Ngā Rangatahi Toa was an offer to “rangatahi falling through the cracks”.

“I’ve been at the helm for the last four years with a direction and a focus that’s moved around my background, which is resilience and wellbeing, and offering more protective factors around for our babies through creativity and what that offers them.”

The idea behind Manawa Ora Te Hīhiri comes from the spark of creativity and thought, O’Sullivan says.

“Through the pandemic, what we wanted to be able to highlight and show is that even though it’s chaotic, our children don’t need to be in chaos, and understanding that you can have flashes of lightning and be awesome, and still have chaos around you.

“The spark refers to just before the lightning hits the ground, and to be that spark that creates change in your life.”

Things to help with rangatahi’s creativity includes game development, visual arts and waiata composition to name a few.

“It’s just being able to offer forms of creativity that build the inner resilience in young people that want to be able to stand in their own mana and tell their own story… but then to honour that work by putting it on stage.

“This year it’s in The Loft in Q Theatre, so it’s an established stage which we feel our babies have every right to access those big stages and the big audiences that come with them to hear their stories.”

With inspired rangatahi comes teachers that hope to inspire, with names like Bella Kalolo, Laughton Kora of NZ reggae/rock/roots fusion band Kora, and Freshmans Dance Crew providing their teachings to the students.

“They come with our rangatahi through wānanga through the whole year. All three of those creatives have been working with us for the last four years and they’re really committed to having other work around them, so they can come in and contribute to our kaupapa.”

“Understanding these kids aren’t kids that are in your drama classes or performing arts school, these are the ones that are standing outside of that big hall looking in, going ‘I wish that was me.’”

Information about Manawa Ora: Te Hīhiri can be found here, including ticket prices and the three dates available for the show.