Story: Arts and social engagement

Maranga Mai theatre group performing at the Beehive, 1980

Maranga Mai theatre group performing at the Beehive, 1980

In 1979 and 1980 grassroots theatre group Maranga Mai led by Roma and Brian Potiki, performed a play of the same name around the country. The hard-hitting work tacked Māori land rights and dramatised the protests and occupations that were taking place around that time.

The content and delivery was challenging for some audiences and the performance was the subject of largely hostile media reports. Others found the play refreshing and relevant. The group received financial support from the Arts Council and on 1 October 1980 the play was performed in the Beehive (the executive wing of Parliament) at the invitation of member of Parliament Whetū Tirikātene-Sullivan. During this performance an audience member smashed a bottle and Maranga Mai supporters tussled with outspoken National Party MP Norman Jones. In a newspaper report the following day Jones said he was considering complaining to the race relations conciliator, while Tirikātene-Sullivan said it was 'a totally valid art form for New Zealand at the moment'.

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Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: DOM/1980/1002/9

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Ben Schrader, 'Arts and social engagement - Criticising society', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 March 2023)

Story by Ben Schrader, published 22 Oct 2014