Aotearoa New Zealand, 16 September 2020


Actress Keisha Castle-Hughes is seen in the photograph (above) as Pai in the internationally acclaimed movie, Whale Rider (2002) produced by John Barnett and directed by Niki Caro. Witi Ihimaera wrote the novel and was co-producer.

Here’s a glimpse of another young woman, Alice, on her way to changing the world. The short play in six scenes was written in August this year and designed for kapahaka (cultural and performance) and school groups to perform, in te reo as well as in English, whatever language they wished. In this version, for international readers, both languages are used.




 A Play in Six Scenes

Witi Ihimaera


Scene 1

Alice: I have to give a morning talk next week.

Rose: That’s nice, sweetie.

Alice: But I don’t know what to talk about.

Rose: Maybe you could give a speech about Mirabelle? The mouse she caught?

Alice: She scratches me and I don’t like her anymore.

Rose: Well, you could talk about our trip to the zoo. Or maybe your Koro could suggest something.

Alan: Now that would be a bad idea…

(Singing) I see a bad moon risin’ 

         I see, trouble on the way!


Scene 2 

Alan: Hi Alice, how’s my favourite girl?

Alice: I’m good. Do you want to help me?

Alan: Can’t get to Level 4 on your game?

Alice: I’m not playing Warcraft, Dad. I’m researching.

Rose: She saw Koro after school.

Alice: He gave me a great idea! He said I should talk about the Treaty.

Alan: (Singing) Dont know why theres no sun up

         in the sky, stormy weather!


Scene 3

Rose: I don’t know what’s happening to Alice. She’s given up her iPad.

Alan: Wow, that’s bad. Maybe she’s coming down with something.

Rose: And she’s always talking on her iPhone.

Alan: Oh no – a boyfriend?

Rose: She’s only eleven.

Alan: Maybe we need to talk to her about babies. (Singing) When you see a gentleman bee around a lady bee buzzin, just count to ten and then count again, theres bound to be an even dozen, multiplication…

Rose: A boyfriend? Worse: Koro, and her research has really taken off. Oh, why couldn’t she have picked a nice inoffensive subject for her school talk!

Alice: Kia ora e Ma. I pai to ra mahi i te mahi, e Pa?

Alan: Since when did you start speaking te reo!

Rose: Ever since she went to see Koro.

Alice: I’m giving my speech in Māori, Dad. It’s Māori Language Week.

Alan: Nobody will understand you, sweetie.

Alice: Dad, you need to de-colonise yourself. And Māori should be spoken all year.


Scene 4

Rose: Hello, is that you, Koro? Is Alice still over at your place? It’s time for her to come home for her tea.

Alice: Hi, Mum. Could I sleep over at Koro’s place? Why haven’t you told me about my kuia Titewhai? And aunties Hana, Donna, Atareta and Ripeka? And, Mum, can I ask you something?

Rose: You want to do what!

Alan: Hello, dear. What’s for dinner? Where’s Alice?

Rose: She’s sleeping over at Koro’s. She’s still preparing for her talk. And she has a favour she wants to ask us.

Alan: Put her on the phone. Hello, sweetie. (Pause) No, you cannot have a kauae moko. You can get the tattoo on your chin when you’re older.


Scene 5

Alan: Thank god the morning talk is over. I think she did very well, don’t you?

Rose: She made me very proud. But did she have to tell them the school’s on Māori land and should be given back? Oh, hi sweetie, what’s that in your hand?

Alice: A new poster for my wall.

Alan: Another Bruno Mars?

Alice: No, Angela Davis – you know, the Black American activist. Black Lives Do Matter.

Alan: (to Rose) Next thing you know she’ll be wearing a Che Guevara beret.

Rose: You must be blind.

Alan: Oh. (Singing) You say yes

         I say no, you say stop

         But I say go!


Scene 6

Alice: Kia ora e te whanau. Ka haere au ki te mahi.

Alan: Oh? Why not stay at home, let’s play World of Warcraft.

Alice: Koro is waiting for me. He has the tribe all ready to leave with ropes. Māori television is on the way to film us.

Rose: Alice, sweetie, what’s this all about?

Alice: Did you know our town has a Māori name, not just a Pākehā name?  Koro says it’s time for the sign at the town limit to come down.

Alan: (Singing) For united we stand, divided we fall,

          And if our backs should ever be against the wall,

          We’ll be together! Together you and I!

Alice: And from now on, taku ingoa ko Arihia. Call me Arihia.


Photo credit Andy Crown

Witi Ihimaera is the author of 14 novels, 6 short story collections, four plays, four operas, a ballet, journalism and more, with 22 edited works on New Zealand and Māori culture to his credit so far. Four of his books have been made into feature films, including Whale Rider in 2002. His latest works are Black Marks on the White Page (2017), an anthology co-edited with Tina Makereti of Māori & Pasifika writing; Sleeps Standing (2018), the first bilingual Maori-English novel to be published in New Zealand; Pūrākau (2019), an anthology co-edited with Whiti Hereaka of contemporary Māori authors; Native Son (2019), his second memoir; and the forthcoming Navigating the Stars (2020), a non-fiction history of Māori as seen through their creation myths. He is a co-editor of this project. More here