New Zealand’s only contemporary indigenous theatre and dance event Kia Mau Festival returns to Wellington from Friday 2 – Saturday 24 June. It’s a unique and innovative opportunity for whānau and communities across the Wellington region to engage with today’s tangata whenua and First Nations artists from across the globe.

Led by Wellington’s own Māori and Pasifika theatre and dance companies, the performers will challenge the idea of what Māori, Pasifika and Indigenous theatre and dance is. There are 14 events across three glorious weeks in venues across the region from Porirua City to Wellington City to Upper Hutt City.

Alongside the Kia Mau Festival is Breaking Ground (formerly known as the Matariki Development Festival) A vital development festival that will workshop and test new ideas and stories within a mana Māori, mana Pasifika kaupapa.

Week one starts with Tiki Taane Mahuta. ​Live music, theatre, aerial performance, contemporary dance, kapa haka, mau rākau and hip hop are used to depict two generations of New Zealand families and the tragedy, hope and redemption which connect them. Sounds amazing right? It’s sold out. If, like me, you’re now kicking yourself, make sure you book tickets to the other shows!

Fire In The Water, Fire In The Sky

Told through movement, dance and text, this is a modern statement on climate change, colonisation and Christianity across the Pacific Rim. It’s an untangling of the greatest collision to have affected Te Moana-nui-a-kiva – western imperialism.

  • Various performance times during the morning at Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua 6-10 June 2017, then Te Papa Tongarewa 13 – 17 June. Performances are free to watch.

Portrait of an artist mongrel 

Self proclaimed young mongrel, poet and playwright, Rowley Habib, will be remembered one year after his passing in a presentation of his works. His characters challenge the status quo, struggle with isolation from their tribal lands, fight for the right to access their language and cultural heritage or discard the Māori way of life completely.

  • On at BATS Theatre 6 & 7 June 2017


The timeless, intense and transcendent solo ritual created and performed by Santee Smith, it honours land and feminine body as sacred, ceremonial practices and is both ancient and present. A physical marathon, Santee is an artist in her full power, unleashing a wild, fragile, potent performance that draws inspiration from her Onkwehon:we (Iroquois) way of being

  • On at BATS Theatre 6-10 June 2017

Lick my past

Playful and exuberant Nancy and Kelly don’t take take themselves too seriously now  that their long stressful dance careers are a matter of choice.  It’s surprising just how strange and funny these two Maori and Pakeha wahine’s lives can be as they slip between both as friends and foe.

  • On at BATS Theatre 7-10 June 2017

Gathering clouds

In preparation for the coming of Captain Cook’s celebrations, three pacific artists workshop their concept of the storm of colonisation across the Pacific, and the devastation left in its path. NZ Slam Poet Champion Te Kahu Rolleston, Young NZ of the Year Jahra Wasasala and International Fringe performer James Nokise, combine their talents for a new, experimental, piece looking at colonialism’s toll on the Pacific.

  • On at BATS Theatre 7-10 June 2017

Friday’s flock

Inspired by the stories and personalities of the rural community and filled with kiwi humour. Reihana Haronga plays all 7 characters, ranging from farm dog to farmer to farm wife, with skilful timing and precision characterisation.

  • On at BATS Theatre 8-10 June 2017

Riverside Kings

A story inspired by the suburb of Timberlea, Upper Hutt. Peni a newly retired boxer receives the call to come home. He is reunited with  Salaki, his younger and directionless brother who has remained at home.  Peni finds that time has changed Timberlea as much as life has changed them. With questions, memories and unfinished words in the air, expecting the whole of Samoa for Christmas, will they move forward and create new traditions and memories to last?

  • On at Expressions Whirinaki, Upper Hutt 9 June 2017, then at BATS Theatre 13-17 June 2017.


Week two

This is what it looks like

Room a mess, in her bed, unshowered, sits Di. Alone. Except for her radio and her phone, neither of which she likes very much right now. Meanwhile, following the disappearance of her Uncle, Eri is determined to find him. Fearless in the company of a flower she named Ahorangi, 9-yr old Eri sets off on a journey into the forest. But let’s not beat around the bush. This is definitely, without a doubt, a show about depression. If that word puts you off, maybe you should come watch it – it’s funny and stuff. And Finn will be there…

  • On at BATS Theatre 14-17 June 2017


A short works programme by Atamira Dance Company showcasing the strong female choreographic voice from within the company. Pito by Nancy Wijohn explores themes around maternal connection, and attempts to uncover meanings of loss, abandonment and pain to find light, enlightenment and love. Te Waenganui by Gabrielle Thomas explores the three fingers of the manaia – birth, life, and death – and the space between, known as Te Waenganui. Kelly Nash presents , a reframed and recontextualised look at the myth of demigod Maui and his efforts to gain eternal life by exploiting the goddess Hine Nui Te Po.

  • On at the Hannah Playhouse 14-20 June 2017

The Maori sidesteps 

The newest and naughtiest Maori Showband on the Aotearoa entertainment scene the Sidesteps turn some of your favourite songs on their head in a mix of satirical skits and crooning goodness.

  • On at BATS Theatre 15-17 June 2017

Purple Onion

Peeps into the world of Wellington’s infamous burlesque parlour, the Purple Onion.  Established in the mid 1960s, the Purple Onion was Wellington’s premiere strip club which attracted some of New Zealand’s social elite as well as its fair share of dubious characters. Combining text, dance and a live funk band, the show acknowledges the significant historical contributions of the lesbian, gay, trans and queer communities to the Purple Onion as well as the social night life of Wellington City during the 1960s and 70s.

  • On at the Hannah Playhouse 16 & 17 June 2017

Mata and the Mysterious Musical Maunga

An Aotearoa musical adventure as 10-year-old Mata journeys to a mysterious maunga to seek an ancient kōauau. Being guided by ngā manu and waiata, Mata faces dangerous challenges and encounters quirky and charming characters who help him on his way

  • Free performance at Te Papa Tongarewa 17 June 2017


Week three

The Mooncake and the Kūmara

Nearly ninety years ago on a New Zealand market garden, two families, one Māori and the other Chinese, became part of a romance that would uproot their lives over generations.

Layered with myth and fable, The Mooncake and the Kūmara is a moving story about a mixed-up, Māori-Chinese love affair that sprouts among rows of potatoes. Told in a rich mixture of English, Māori and Cantonese, The Mooncake and the Kūmara is the debut, award-winning play by Māori-Chinese playwright Mei-Lin Te Puea Hansen.

  • On at the Hannah Playhouse 21-24 June 2017.