Nga Tamatoa was the 1970s protest group that forced Maori grievances over land and language loss into the spotlight. In NGA TAMATOA, actor Rawiri Paratene, the youngest founding member of the group, revisits his past to provide a personal insight into the movement and its impact on life in Aotearoa.
In 1970, Paratene was a 16-year-old schoolboy at Otara’s Hillary College when he attended the inaugural Maori Leaders Conference in Auckland, an event bursting with the era’s most influential Maori thinkers. Out of that hui was born the activist movement Nga Tamatoa, and Rawiri Paratene became its youngest founding member.
Nga Tamatoa’s members were largely urban, university-educated Maori angry at continuing land confiscation and the degradation of te reo Maori. Recalls Paratene, “There was the full gamut of feelings amongst the group from the totally non-aggressive approach to the ‘let’s take up arms, let’s have a violent uprising and die for the cause’. And I was one of those who was prepared to die for the cause.”
The movement ushered in a new era of Maori assertiveness. In the documentary, Paratene ventures back into the first Nga Tamatoa protest at Waitangi in 1971. On September 14, 1972, Paratene was in the front row when Nga Tamatoa and other activist groups delivered their 30,000-strong Maori Language Petition “praying for courses in Maori language and aspects of Maori culture to be offered in schools”.
He reflects on the 1975 Land March, and ventures to Te Urewera to catch up with his old friend, Tame Iti, with whom he spent months camped outside Parliament in the ‘Tent Embassy’ lobbying, as the banners read, for “Maori control of Maori things”.
Paratene, many of whose acting roles have portrayed people trying to bridge cultural divides, takes viewers on a rich historical journey as he reflects on the social conditions that led to Nga Tamatoa, its impact and whether its kaupapa remains relevant today. “Those years of political activism helped shape the rest of my life and perhaps helped shape Aotearoa as we know it.”
NGA TAMATOA traces the history of 1970s Maori rights group Nga Tamatoa through the eyes of one of its founding members, actor Rawiri Paratene. NGA TAMATOA screens at 8.30pm on Saturday 15 September.
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