Entertainment | Te Arawa

Innovative stage version of famous Te Arawa tale warmly welcomed in Rotorua

A scene from Hatupatu Kurungaituku- A Forbidden Love Photo / Herewini Waikato

After a successful New Zealand tour by Taki Rua Theatre Company, the cast and crew of Hatupatu Kurungaituku - A Forbidden Love have arrived in Rotorua, the homelands of Hatupatu and Kurungaituku, the famous Te Arawa ancestors from the story widely known as Hatupatu and the Birdwoman.

The local iwi had a mass powhiri to welcome and thank the group for bringing home the story of their two ancestors after staging it in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch.

“We are thankful Te Arawa allowed us to share their story with the country, and to be here, home to Hatupatu and Kurungaituku, is special for us,” Taki Rua’s Adrian Wagner said.

Having a close whakapapa link to Hatupatu and Kurungaituku, Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao of Te Arawa waka supported Taki Rua’s aspirations to catapult the story into a new and innovative theatre performance using Western theatre techniques such as aerial acrobatics using ropes, harnesses, multi-purpose staging, multi-media video and having its audience stand through the 75-minute performance to create a more personal and up-close experience.

“It has been a dream of mine for the past 10 years now to gravitate together our pūrākau or stories with the use of introduced techniques and fuse into the world of theatre,” said artistic director Tanemahuta Gray said.

Hone Tarawhiti of Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao and others of Te Arawa Whānui took the opportunity to reshape the narrative of the story and the characters as there have been stories told about Hatupatu but different from those told by the home people of Te Arawa.

‘Real people, not a myth’

This was their chance to change the narrative and Taki Rua dedicated this story to the inspiration of the Te Arawa people.

“They are real people, not a myth, they have parents, they have genealogy, and the birdwoman has a name, Kurungaituku,” Tarawhiti said.

At the end of today’s sold-out performance, a special award ceremony was held to honour the life and contribution to the arts of the late Ngamoni Huata, a mokopuna of Hatupatu and Kurungaituku. Huata had received many accolades over the years, Te Matatini, and Matariki to name a few.

But Tarawhiti said she had never received acknowledgment from the Rotorua community for what she had done with the performing arts, such as kapa haka. “The tribe and Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell agreed that today would be fitting to do so.”

Ngamoni also played Kurungaituku in a performance with Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao Kapahaka Roopu at The Polynesian Māori Performing Arts Festival many years ago.

  • In Hatupatu Kurungaituku - A Forbidden Love, Hatupatu is murdered by his brothers for stealing the rich stores of kereru. He comes back to life to avenge his mistreatment and death at the hands of his brothers. On his way home, Hatupatu encounters the mythical bird woman, Kurungaituku, who ensnares him in her cave. An extraordinary love develops but, when Kurungaituku leaves Hatupatu alone in the cave to seek food for her beloved, he steals her treasured taonga and ransacks her home in the process. She chases him across the Te Arawa terrain and sacrifices herself to save him from the scorching mudpools and geysers of Whakarewarewa, leaving Hatupatu to return home to fulfil his destiny as a leader of his people.