He Tangata

By Jayden Rurawhe (they/them)

Jayden Rurawhe (They/Them) walks us through their play, He Tangata, created for the launch of this year's Pride Festival in Te Whanganui-a-tara Wellington.


Tēnā koutou katoa


Ko Hineraki te Maunga

Ko Rotokakahi te Awa

Ko Māmari te Waka

Ko Te Uri o Tai te Hapu

Ko te Rarawa, ko Ngapuhi, Ko Ngati Rauka-wa te Iwi

Ko Morehu te Marae

Ko Jayden Rurawhe tōku ingoa


No reira, Tēnā koutou, Tēnā kotou, Tēnā tatou katoa




On the 13th of March, the Wellington Pride festival launched its two-week festival with the opening ceremony, He Tangata. An unveiling of takatāpuitanga. Co-directed by myself and Paris Elwood.


This show was a search for the forgot-ten taonga of Te Ao Māori. A reminder of oneness. He Tangata danced through the realms of ira Tangata and ira Atua, exploring takatāpui whakapapa and the existence of takatāpuitanga, to remember, mourn and heal from generational trauma. The intention of this performance was to weave takatāpui and Māori tanga back together. I, like many of my whānau, felt a disconnect between our Māoritanga and queerness, that we must leave our queerness at the door of the marae and leave our Māoritanga within our queer lives. Before moving to Te Whanganui-a-tara I had never heard of the word takatāpui before, let alone acknowl-edged my queerness within the existence of Te Ao Māori. But through decolonising and acknowledging my whakapapa I discovered that both takatāpuitanga and Māori tanga had been woven together harmoniously, since the separation of Papatūānuku and Ranginui. It is only through the white finger-prints of colonisation that this harmony was severed, dividing the positive ideologies of sexuality and gender that had always existed within Māori culture.


He Tangata is a medicinal rongoā of movement, made to heal and soothe the impacts of colonisation on our takatāpui whānau. By reconnecting with takatāpui-tanga, we are healing ourselves by way of movement; a metaphysical medicine. The 45-minute show invited the audience to join in the generational grief and healing of takatāpuitanga and Māoritanga. The performance moved through the existence of takatāpuitanga, blanketed in a beautiful world of traditional and modern Taonga Puoro, composed by Neil MacLeod and Te Kahureremoa. A poem written by Elizabeth Kerekere (a heavy inspiration of the show), offered a recipe for takatāpui creation,


“Born of Papatūānuku

You are the soft weeping of Ranginui

The elusive presence of Hinepūkohurangi

The tremble of Rūaumoko

The allure of hinemoana

The home of kokotea”


It tells a story of strength and unity, a raranga of takatāpuitanga and Māori tanga, solidifying the notion that queerness has always existed. As the show progressed, the introduction of Tī Whanawhana, a queer lead takatāpui rōpū, sang waiata of creation and togetherness. I felt it was important to include our tuākana in the show, as these trans and takatāpui elders have paved the way for the queer rangatahi of today. It was truly a beautiful moment to see both young and old queer Māori share breath with each other.


He Tangata also followed the story of death and grief. It was agreed during the concep-tual phase of the show that we must show pain caused by colonisation and the effects it had on our people. The colonial imprint on our people had caused a massive divide between Māori and takatāpui and in order to heal from our generational trauma, we must remember our past. This transpired into thoughts of loss and disconnect, almost like we have been placed in a state of Te Kore, a void of limitless darkness. The performance ended with dancers moving out of this vast darkness into Te Ao Māra-ma. A guiding light. The future. I wanted the audience to know that we have always been here, that our history, knowledge and stories have just been hidden away. That whatever place we are situated in on our decolonial journey, we will always be guid-ed by our tūpuna, atua and tuakana into new light from the darkness. Into a place that we have always belonged.


He Tangata is a reminder to all, Māori, Pākehā and Tauiwi that queerness and gen-der identity have always been woven within Te Ao Māori. To tell the story of takatāpui existence, we maintain our ability (as Māori) to learn and practice ancient methods of preservations that have kept our cultural traditions and reo alive. He Tangata is about remembrance and acknowledgement. It starts a conversation, creating korero and provides education to all people. Decolonising the thought and ideology of gender and sexuality within Te Ao Māori, I felt it was important to create this show to tell our stories of my people from a Māori perspective, that it is no longer time to listen to the foreigner, the foreigner will listen to us.


To all my takatāpui whānau. It is time we reclaim. To let our stories and voice be heard. To remind the world that we have always belonged. That we will always be He Tangata.