The Second Generation of Urban Maori and Art

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By the 1970s' the young adults who had drifted to the cities in the 1950s had given birth to another generation of Maori born and raised in the city and therefore separated from their tribal roots. Unemployment in New Zealand had greatly escalated by this time, and the government implemented a range of employment programs, based on similar ones offered in the pre-war United States.

Despite the economic pressures, new Maori arts groups formed as part of the government employment programs at the Wellington Arts Centre. (The centre was the first of the art employment programs established by the government in 1980). Contemporary theatre companies such as Te Ohu Whakaari and a Pacific Island group, Taotahi, were established under the artistic direction of Colin McColl; Maori actor Rangimoana Taylor later became artistic director of Te Ohu Whakaari. The new works these groups presented were more about contemporary living than direct expressions of Maori or Pacific Island art or culture. An African-Maori dance company called ‘Merupa Maori’ was founded under the musical and dance direction of Kincho Katshablala, a former cast member of the famous South African musical ‘lpi Tombi’, and Rangitihi Tahuparae, an expert on Maori language, ritual, history and weaponry. Tahuparae had also helped form Te Ohu Whakaari, which successfully staged its first p|ay, ‘The Gospel According to Tane’, written by Selwyn Murupaenga, and initiated, among many other things, the Whanaki rangataua (emerging warriors) group. This powerful body of highly skilled Maori Warriors used traditional and contemporary weaponry and methods of fighting. He also trained very selecr gfoups of young people in Maori ritual, language and traditional dance.

The Maori language and other educational and developmental programs progressed under the visionary leadership of Ihakara Puketapu, the secretary of the government's Department of Maori Affairs. He had previously worked in New Mexico, and from the 1960s onward he instituted several cultural and business exchanges with the Navajo and Hopi Nations of the American Southwest as part of a focus on small industries involving crafts.

Puketapu also set up Te Kohanga Reo Maori, immersion language programs for preschoolers. Hundreds of small tribal and urban language "nests" throughout the country have increased the number of native speakers. However, as the Maori language is adjusted to fit into ”English-language format", its poetic nature is changed - a shift that may be unavoidable as we become part of the competitive global economy and the language loses its day-to-day use.

Maori language flourished on the radio under Huirangi Waikerepuru and Professor Whatarangi Winiata, who in 1982 helped form the first Maori radio station, Te Upoko o te Ika (Head of the Fish). Today there are more than twenty-five Maori radio stations around the country as well as a Maori television station, which celebrated its first anniversary in April 2004. Puketapu was also responsible for kokiri centres, training facilities that promote language and culture.