Amanda Noblett: An Interview by Alphabet

Amanda Noblett (Tainui, Waikato, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Pākehā) plays the kuia in Te Kuia me te Pūngāwerewere, Taki Rua Productions’ Te Reo Māori Season play that is touring the country at the moment. Guest editor Kura Rutherford caught up with her and covered a lot of ground, from spiders to netball!

Amanda Noblett as the Kuia; detail from a photograph by Philip Merry

Amanda is a graduate of Whitireia Performing Arts course with a Bachelor of Applied Arts, and has worked on six productions with Taki Rua, as well as working with Tawata Productions, Le Moana Dance, Hāpai Productions and Te Rākau Hua o Te Wao Tapu Trust.

Amanda says, ‘performing has always been a passion of mine. Being chosen to perform Patricia Grace’s iconic children’s book in te reo Māori to our beautiful schools of Aotearoa is a privilege. E kaingākau ana au ki ngā mahi ā rēhia. E kaingākau hoki ana au ki te tākoha i te reo Māori, me ngā pūrākau Māori ki te aō. Nāku anō te hōnore ki te whai mahi i tāku e kaingākau ana, otirā te haerere haere ki ngā kura o Aotearoa ki te whakatū whakaari reo Māori. ‘Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori.’ Tīhei mauriora.’

The play Te Kuia me te Pūngāwerewere is based on the New Zealand classic picture book The Kuia and the Spider by Patricia Grace, and is written and directed by Jamie McGaskill, translated by Hōhepa Waitoa, and performed in te reo Māori, alongside Amanda, by Jason Te Kare, Te Awhiroa Lewis Kuka-Sweet and Isaac Te Reina.

Scene from Taki Rua’s production of Te Kuia me te Pūngāwerewere; photograph by Philip Merry

The use of gestures, dance and waiata makes it an accessible, engaging show for all audience members, te reo speaking or not, and offers a wonderful opportunity for young audiences to be immersed in te reo Māori.

The play veers from Grace’s original storyline of the kuia and the spider fighting over who is the best weaver, to incorporate a fast-paced, sometimes dark, always humorous ‘backstory’ involving the kuia, two brother spiders and a grasshopper, all trying to save a magical Spider World from human proliferation.

Like in the book though, there is bickering – plenty of it – beautifully delivered in te reo by the multi-talented cast. Māori theatre company, Taki Rua, have been touring an annual show for te reo Māori Season since the 1990s, and hundreds of schools have been lucky enough to watch their performances, all presented in te reo Māori by some of our country’s leading actors.

Amanda Noblett as the Kuia; photograph by Philip Merry

We challenged Amanda to a quick-fire ‘either/or’ journey through the Māori ārapu/alphabet. Amanda’s choices are highlighted in orange.

A ata/ahiahi (morning/afternoon)

E eke hōiho/eke ngaru (horse riding/surfing)

H hukapapa/hukātara (frost/hail)

I inanahi/ināianei/āpōpō (yesterday/now/tomorrow)

K kawhi/korarā (coffee/milo)

M mīti/mātaitai (meat/shellfish)

N niupēpā/Pukamata (newspaper/Facebook)

Ng Ngawha/te wharekai i Ngaio (Ngawha hot springs/café in Ngaio)

O oma taumano/oma taitau (marathon/middle distance run)

P poitarawhiti/poitūkohu (netball/basketball)

R rāhipere/rōpere (raspberry/strawberry)

T tīemiemi/tārere (seesaw/swing)

U ua tarahī/ua tātā (light drizzle/heavy rain)

W waka kōpana/waka ama (jet boat/canoe)

Wh whakapaipai/whakairi kākahu (AN: whakatā 🙂 ktk) (tidy up/hang the clothes)

Kura Rutherford
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Kura Rutherford (Te Rārawa, Ngāpuhi) is a school librarian, writer and editor, who lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. She grew up in Hokianga and Grey Lynn, before moving to Hawke’s Bay for 20 years with her husband, Dominic, to bring up their three daughters. She worked for 10 years in public libraries in customer service and community roles before becoming the sole charge school librarian at Taikura Rudolf Steiner School in Hastings. Now having returned to Tāmaki with her family, she works in the same role at Michael Park School in Ellerslie. She has been connected to Steiner education since she was 23 when she and her husband worked for a year at Hōhepa Farm in Hawke’s Bay, and all three daughters have attended Steiner schools. Kura’s writing focus is on health, education and literature, and she has written for The Sapling, Good magazine, EBSCO databases, Magpies magazine, and craft magazine Extracurricular. She has a special interest in supporting organisations in their te reo Māori strategic planning and development aspirations.