Play a lesson in embracing your identity, history

Grace Turipa (left) and Millie Manning star in Cindy Diver’s first full-length play Wahine...
Grace Turipa (left) and Millie Manning star in Cindy Diver’s first full-length play Wahine Mātātoa: the (mostly) true story of Erihāpeti Pātahi. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Wahine Matatoa, Allen Theatre, Friday, June 21.

This jigsaw puzzle of genealogy masks the strategically important rediscovery of whakapapa.

Diving down genealogical warrens of possibilities and suppositions eventuality leads to a plausible confirmation of identity.

Cindy Diver’s play Wahine Matatoa traces the life of Pa-tahi who defies the restrictions of her lineage in order to pursue her own path with not always desirable outcomes. Pa-tahi, acted by Grace Turipa, has a sturdy sense of self-determination, an unfeminine intelligence and ability to "think too much".

The consequence for her is an interesting life ostracised from her family. Her contemporary descendent, Elizabeth Brown acted by Millie Manning, has inherited that dilemma — domesticity versus a world of exploration.

The consequences of their choices and the risk of living with regret are convincingly played out as process of rebirthing.

Both women are surrounded by husbands who come and go (as they say), parents, friends and the colonial powers that be, played with canny character shifts by Rosella Hart and Simon Anderson.

Wahine Matatoa is a strong work — cleverly devised, emotionally engaging and well acted. It neatly stitches together events, researched by Diver, and music, composed and performed by Ruby Solly, which span two centuries.

It is also very aware that humour is the best shortcut to self awareness.

Stage management by Keri Hunter is effectively minimal and versatile. Co-director Hilary Halba, workshop director Juanita Hepi and producer H-J Kilkelly and their backstage crew have created a visually and dramatically cohesive and provocative work.

As stated at the end of the evening, you cannot, nor should you, erase your past. Your tipuna is you; you are your tipuna. Induced cultural amnesia inhibits growth of the individual, their family and society.

Wahine Matatoa prompts us to own our history and shelve any sense of cultural whakama.