Two of the drama’s Mori stars have practically came to terms with an aspect of their own culture that they hadn’t previously examined thanks to a Home And Away storyline.
When Ari (Rob Kipa-Williams), Tane (Ethan Browne), and Nikau (Kawakawa Fox-Reo) are sentenced to prison, the Parata family is torn apart.
Uncle Tane takes Nikau camping in the bush to teach him how to use his late father’s taiaha since he can’t cope with his uncle’s absence (a long-handled weapon used in close combat).
Both men had to learn new things. “I clearly understood what it was because I’m Mori,” Browne, an accomplished martial artist, adds, “but I never really performed taiaha itself.”
“We did a little amount of mau rakau (weapon-based Mori martial arts) in high school, so when the scenario came up, I had to call a few buddies for assistance.”
However, due to Covid restrictions in Sydney at the time, taiaha lessons had to be taken over the internet.
“I’d watch the videos and try to copy the actions,” the actor adds, adding that he also connected with a Sydney man who runs a kapa haka club over Facebook.
“We’d meet up over FaceTime, and he’d help me with the dialogue, making sure I was saying the right things at the right times.” Over FaceTime, he even double-checked my movements, asking questions like, “Is this hand position correct?” and so on. That’s how we went about it.”
Fox-Reo (Ngati Kahungunu), a Hawke’s Bay native, attended kohanga reo as a child and also has kapa haka experience, but claims to be new to taiaha.
“I practised kapa haka in high school, but I’m not a professional or an expert,” he adds, adding that when he learned about the taiaha narrative, he enlisted the support of his Australian relatives.
“We did our best to incorporate some basic movements into the show, but it’s nowhere near as good as what people back home can do.” Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud of it, but it’s at a very basic level.”
Fox-Reo is extremely proud of his Mori ancestry, although he admits that he still has a lot to learn.
“That’s who I am and something I’m very proud of,” he says, “but I’m definitely guilty of not upholding a certain quality that I know I’m capable of in terms of language and tikanga.”
“I grew up spending a lot of time at the marae, and I’m constantly eager to learn more, but there will never be a point where I know everything.” I’ve only recently discovered the Mori community here, and it’s wonderful.”
Both actors are embracing the chance to teach aspects of Mori culture to audiences in Australia and the many other countries where the show airs, thanks to their Home And Away roles.
Browne thinks that viewers will have as much fun seeing the taiaha moments as he and Fox-Reo had filming them.
“Anything cultural we do has always gotten a wonderful reception. “(Viewers) appreciate it because it’s different from what they’ve seen before – it’s not the same old jogging on the beach stuff,” he explains.
“I hope we do honour to our fellow Mori.” There are certainly some subtleties that I missed, or extremely well-trained guys viewing it could be like, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ Perhaps not, but hopefully not.”
The couple is aware that for some viewers, this will be their first exposure to Mori culture.
“I’m grateful to be a part of it since it’s many people’s first touch with what it’s like to be Mori.” “However, this is only the tip of the iceberg,” Fox-Reo adds. “I want to be clear that there are so many more things that are just as rich, and there is so much to offer that we haven’t featured on the show,” she says.
When the Parata family was introduced at the start of 2020, the program’s producers stated that they wanted to incorporate as much Mori culture as possible into the show – a promise the Kiwi actors have kept.
Browne says, “They’re all for it.” “They support any and all cultural ideas we have.” We’ll pitch it to them and they’ll say, ‘Oh, sure, that’ll work there.’ More is on the way, and we’ll keep you updated.
“It’s something very important to me, and it just feels good to know that I’m helping to raise awareness about our culture.”