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Kōanga Festival 2021 adopts hybrid model in response to lockdown in Aotearoa


Four of the five writers in this year’s Whakarongomai Playwrights Readings, as part of the annual Kōanga Festival (L to R: Baylee Watene-Kay, Ava Williams, Colleen Maria Lenihan, Te Aorewa Areta)

Te Pou Theatre is delighted to confirm that their annual Kōanga Festival will go ahead in 2021, adopting a hybrid model to encompass both digital offerings and in-person events in response to Tāmaki Makaurau’s changing alert level status.

A celebration of Māori storytelling centred on their emerging playwright programme, Te Pou have extended the planned dates for this year’s festival, now running from September 23 – October 9.


Following the success of last year’s digital Kōanga Festival, Te Pou are committed to continuing their support of developing stories and storytellers in both digital and live spaces.

The 2021 Kōanga programme will now offer digital access, allowing whānau to engage in storytelling in their homes, as well as in person events if the alert level status allows community gatherings to happen safely.


Unfolding across two consecutive weekends, the Whakarongo Mai play readings offer the first chance for the public to hear brand-new works from the exciting emerging playwrights being fostered under the Kōanga umbrella.

With all readings commencing at 7pm, the public will be able to join the koha readings via a digital stream by registering for the live link on the Te Pou Theatre website.

The first weekend, Friday 1 and Saturday 2 October, will be new kaupapa Māori plays for tamariki: Hoki Wairua Mai by Baylee Watene-Kay and Atarangi: Morning Sky by Tom Knowles. 

Friday 8 and Saturday 9 October will feature new works from wāhine Māori playwrights: The Kōkako by Te Aorewa Areta & Pīrairaka, Tīrairaka by Colleen Maria Lenihan and Ava Williams.


Originally planned as a one-night-only performance of a work in progress, Ngā Tohu o Te Taiaohas been reframed and is now being commissioned as a digital arts experience that can still engage audiences with matauranga Māori.

A ticketed experience, the public will be able to join via a digital stream on the Te Pou Theatre website.

Audiences will also get the opportunity to see Kūpapa by Nicola Kāwana as a visual and audio experience that was created during the premiere season of the play earlier this year, accessed through Te Pou Theatre’s website.

Unfortunately, the 2021 Whānau Day scheduled for September 25th has been cancelled, due to the need to be at Alert Level 1.

In its place, Te Pou are inviting whānau to learn the stories of the whenua while walking around Te Pou with a new partnership with Sport Waitakere and Kawerau-ā-Maki Active Whakapapa.


Named for the Te Reo word for Spring, Kōanga gathers the community together for the season that is traditionally a time to combine efforts to plant for the next harvest.

In the same spirit, the role of Kōanga Festival is to develop a fertile Auckland Māori Theatre creative economy outside of the busy Matariki season, focused on developing new creative talent and work.

Now into its seventh iteration, Kōanga is celebrated annually at Te Pou, which was established in 2015 as a response to the Māori theatre sector’s desire to have a home for their work, offering a place for artists to develop and present their work under a tikanga Māori led arts management kaupapa.

Te Pou took up permanent residency at Corban Estate Arts Centre in 2019, and are currently in the process of building a purpose-built venue for their mahi. 

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