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Witi's wahine

Actor/playwright Nancy Brunning’s new play Witi’s Wahine will have its world premiere at the inaugural Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival in October.

Based on excerpts from Ihimaera’s stories, the play’s focus is the female characters in the writer’s stories.

“Witi has always acknowledged the women in his life are the reason he had stories to tell,” says Brunning. Part of her aim was to present an antidote to the usual big screen treatment of Maori women in which their part serves largely to bring the male characters into the spotlight.

“They are portrayed as leaders by default rather than by design,” says Brunning. “They are the love interest not the hero; the support role not the lead; the victim not the instigator; the destroyer not the nurturer; or are so sacred they are inaccessible.”

In her role as family matriarch Ramona in a movie set on the East Coast in the 1950s, and based on Ihimaera’s book Mahana, Brunning’s hope was Mahana would offer a different perspective on what it is to be Maori.

Nancy Brunning. Picture supplied