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As a Kaupapa Māori organisation,

Te RĀkau is guided by Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the Treaty’s principles of protection, participation and partnership.

Aotearoa’s longest surviving independent Māori Theatre company, Te Rākau was established in 1989 by Jim Moriarty and Jerry Banse with a trust deed inherited from the Māori Theatre Trust.


The name Te Rākau Hua o te Wao Tapu nui a Tāne was gifted by Ngāti Toa-Raukawa kuia, Harata Horomona, and means “The blossoming fruit tree of our sacred grove.” This refers to the performing arts as an organic base in which artistic and social justice outcomes may be nurtured and allowed to flourish.


Te Rākau has a proven track record of presenting high quality and socially relevant bi-cultural theatre and through its Theatre Marae programmes communicates and collaborates with communities to create works which resonate culturally, therapeutically, and artistically for audience members and participants alike. We are registered Charitable Trust and Youth Service Provider, and our work travels to schools, prisons, Marae, rural communities, and youth justice residencies across Aotearoa, using Māori theatre as a tool for change. 


Te Rākau is a charitable trust and maintains Level 3 accreditation with the Ministry of Social Development as a youth service provider.

The Trust’s kaupapa (core philosophy) is to advocate for
Tino Rangatiratanga (sovereignty), Mana Taurite (equity),

and Whanaungatanga (belonging) for all New Zealanders through its Theatre Marae programme

- a fusion of therapeutic models, ngā mahi a Rēhia, and political theatre,
delivered in Kaupapa Māori environment.

Theatre Marae is the fusion of therapeutic models, ngā mahi a Rēhia, and political theatre – in particular, Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed and Brecht’s Ensemble Theatre – wrapped up in Kaupapa Māori. The ensemble is key to our work. Casts are large and rehearsals are considered wānanga with movement workshops, voice tutoring, script analysis, ensemble work, waiata and kapa haka practice. Sets and props are minimal, costumes suggestive rather than literal and music and sound effects are often performed live on stage. The Theatre Marae experience enhances the mana of all involved, fosters whanaungatanga, and provides a creative outlet for participants and audiences. 


Te Rākau delivers from its experience in Theatre in Education, Community Theatre, Drama as Therapy, contemporary and traditional Māori Performing Arts. Te Rākau draws mana from its key staff members’ training and experience in mental health and psychology, applied performing arts, professional theatre, Māori studies, teaching and the New Zealand arts curriculum, Arts Administration, and theatre for children. 


Te Rākau are dedicated to the holistic wellbeing of all we work with. Our policies and procedures are updated regularly to reflect both the legal and best-practice requirements of our communities and funders, and against our own specialist experience and expectations.


The work of Te Rākau and Jim Moriarty is a community taonga.

Jim uses storytelling to weave community and individuals back together.

Miranda Harcourt  |  Actor, Director, Filmmaker

THE UNDERTOW journey began for us in 2010 with The Ragged. Since then all four plays have had development seasons and public outings, including an epic repertory season at Te Papa’s Soundings Theatre in January 2017, some have been performed by schools, a TV series of the filmed live performance has screened on Māori Television, there is a film version, and now it is a published book. We hope THE UNDERTOW will be a valuable resource for understanding and presenting the complexity of our collective history in Aotearoa.


JIM.MORIARTY_Te Rakau_2019_Tabitha Arthu

Photo by @Tabitha Arthur Photography


Kaitohu / Performance Director 

(Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Kahungungu, Rangitane, Scots, Norwegian, Italian) 


“Jim Moriarty may never win an Oscar or get a knighthood for his contribution to the arts, but he is exactly the kind of guy who should.” 

Lynne Freeman  | Capital Times


Jim is the Performance Director of Undertow and Rangatira on the paepae auaha of producers, designers and creators. 

A veteran television, film and radio actor with nearly 50 years of professional experience, Jim was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 for Services to the Arts and in 2011 was recognised by the Wellington City Council for his contribution to Wellington Theatre and his work with youth in the community. 

Jim’s leadership of Te Rākau and commitment to theatre as a tool for change, combined with his experience as a registered psychiatric nurse, his skills as a performer and a director, and his dedication and aroha for those he works with has helped train and develop a huge number of theatre practitioners and well as change the lives of many of this country’s most vulnerable people. 


Our kaupapa for theatre is that it belongs to everybody and if we don’t nurture the next

generation of practitioners and audience members then it is to our detriment. 

I produce theatre, I direct theatre, I perform in stuff, and it’s all really to do with the emancipation

of people, freedom and liberation of people.  All the work I’ve done with Te Rākau is along those lines.

All the theatre I’ll continue to do in the future will be about using theatre as a tool for change. 

HELEN.PEARSE-OTENE_Te Rakau_2019_Tabitha

Photo by @Tabitha Arthur Photography


Kaituhi / Playwright 

 (Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kuri, Ngāti Ruanui) 

 “She is a consummate dramatist

whose work is, I believe, destined for classical status.” 

John Smythe  | Theatreview


Helen is the writer of The Undertow and a member of the paepae auaha. 

She is a Registered, Practicing Psychologist in the midst of pursuing her PHD. 

A compelling and eloquent writer, whose profoundly well-researched plays weave history and imagination to tell stories that are integral to the fabric of Aotearoa culture and society, Helen is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, and Massey University. 

Critics have called her work “mythical, magical – and majestic”. They have found her writing “exquisite”, “uncompromising”, “stirring”, “richly textured, insightful, humorous, sobering and energising”. 

Helen’s plays in performance have repeatedly garnered standing ovations and ‘must-see’ status. All of these accolades – and more – are deserved. Helen is engaging with Aotearoa’s bicultural history and our place in the world through a unique blend of captivating characters, gripping narratives, emotional pathos and witty humour. 


As a writer and facilitator Helen has contributed to Te Rākau’s residential work in prisons, youth residential homes, and on Marae since 1999. 


The UNDERTOW stories provide a fantastic opportunity for a whole lot of

people to start reflecting on our country’s history; 

what are all these things that brought us here? 

What are all the issues,

what do we need to turn and face? 

How do we go forward? 

The people in Undertow are like us, just people, flesh and blood who made choices 

and decisions, for whatever reason, but always in the context of what was happening around them.

WAKA.ATTEWELL_Te Rakau_2019_Tabitha Arth

Photo by @Tabitha Arthur Photography


TV & Cinema Concept, Co-Producer and Director Of Photography

 (Ngāti Pakeha) 


His ability to hone in on the emotional dimensions of a film... and to devise the appropriate lighting and camera style, often at a tangent to strict naturalism, lends his work distinction and enduring quality.”  Shot in New Zealand: The art and craft of the kiwi cinematographer  |  Duncan Petrie

Waka Attewell is something of a legend in the Kiwi film industry.


His influence reaches from the landmark 1970s TV series Tangata Whenua to the feature films of the tax-break 1980s, including the acclaimed Starlight Hotel.

The creator can lay claim to a multifarious career of more than 40 years in experimental films, short films, commercials and corporate projects which include Xena, Warrior Princess and The Lord of the Rings. 

Waka has already achieved a successful marriage of theatre and cinema with Maurice Shadbolt’s Once on Chunuk Bair and Ian Mune’s International Festival Film In the Shadow of King Lear. 


We have climbed inside the process of theatre to create an ambitious film and move

well beyond a method of simply recording a live theatre show, a journey so ambitious

and sassy that you’ll want to share the experience again and again. 

Undertow sweeps us through history with profound emotion. 

Between the dark bits, the magic bits, the bits you don’t see coming…

this is the cinema of elsewhere. 

ANETA.POND_Te Rakau_2019_Tabitha Arthur

Photo by @Tabitha Arthur Photography


Kaihautū / Producer of The Undertow

 (Ngāti Rangi, Te Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine) 

Aneta was the Kaihautū/Producer of Te Rākau, working with the company since 2014, beginning with The Ragged and produced The Undertow.

Aneta holds a Bachelor of Performing Arts from the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA) and a post-graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching from the Wellington College of Education.

Aneta has worked as a secondary school teacher, a kura kaupapa research coder for the New Zealand Council of Educational Research, Schools’ Coordinator at Capital E National Theatre for Children, Licensing Agent for New Zealand’s playwriting agency Playmarket, documentary and production still photographer, and as publicist for Māori Theatre companies including Nancy Brunning’s Hāpai Productions and Tanemahuta Gray’s Aotearoa Aerial Theatre Company. 

Te Ao Māori has so much to offer the modern world. 

It contains a window to our past and a door to our future. 

It contains all we need to heal and grow as a nation of different peoples. 

I am passionate about work that can fearlessly look both to the past and the future,

and challenge us to do better. 


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