Entertainment | Comedy

Comedy show ‘He Māori?’ looks at struggles of dual Māori-Pākehā identity

What does it mean to reclaim Māoritanga from a Pākehā upbringing?

It’s the premise of playwright Isaac Martyn’s comedy show, He Māori?’, weaving together elements of stand-up comedy, waiata and theatrical performance to explore the complicated nature of identity.

The sole performer, Martyn’s (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa, Ngāti Pākehā) show is what he calls an autobiography of his life that others who have dual Māori and Pākehā lineage can relate to.

“It just seems to hit a note in terms of identity and being caught in between two worlds that we live in,” he says.

“Even people not exactly like me, people who aren’t Māori have found something from it, which is wonderful.”

Growing up on the North Shore of Tāmaki Makaurau, Martyn struggled to have conversations with his whānau about his taha Māori. That would change after he took a reo Māori paper at university in the South Island, meeting other students who shared the same similarities.

Being colonised - and a coloniser

“I always knew we were Māori but I didn’t think [my whānau and I] counted if that makes sense. I didn’t think we should go around saying that we are.

“Regardless of how they’ve grown up, what age they were or where they come from, there’s a lot of people going on a similar journey of reclaiming and re-understanding Māoritanga.”

While it can be tough to talk about, Martyn hopes turning the kōrero into a laugh can bring about more conversations for those who carry mixed heritage.

“I try to bring out how absurd it is or how funny some of these concepts are. Being colonised and a coloniser, being Pākehā and Māori, is quite contradictory.

“Also some kind of release in terms of knowing you are not alone with all of these questions. Even if you aren’t Māori, questions about what it means to be Māori and ‘is there such a thing as being Māori enough’. Those are the kinds of things you can expect.”

He Māori? plays at the Tahi Festival at the BATS Theatre in Wellington this weekend and at Auckland’s Te Pou Theatre next weekend.

Public Interest Journalism