Wāhine Māori celebrated in Queen's Birthday Jubilee Honours

Corazon Miller
Source: 1News

Wāhine Māori who've used their creative talents to increase the visibility of their heritage, culture and language on a global stage, are among those being celebrated in today's Queen's Birthday Jubilee Honours.

Chelsea Winstanley is a film-maker, whose made a name for herself in Hollywood, producing films including the te reo version of Lion King, Jo Jo Rabbit and What We Do in the Shadows. She's been named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to film and Māori.

Contemporary artist Lisa Reihana, New Zealand's 2017 representative at the Venice Biennale, has been named a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to art.

The two artists are part of a generation that's played a part in Māori reclaiming their rightful place in the world, through their stories, language and vision.

Lisa Reihana says she did pause when considering accepting these "official, nationalistic, colonial" awards. But ultimately decided to accept them for those who came before her.

"It's a whole community of people that stand you up, and allow you to be magnificent."

It was just over half a century ago that Maori were beaten for speaking te reo in school; many felt forced to hide their and heritage.

As a nation we've come along way since then, with te reo Māori becoming a large part of daily life. Māori culture now celebrated for the role it's played in our collective identity.

The artist says it is impossible to under-estimate how much things have changed in Aotearoa. She recalls as a young artist in the 1980s when it was a big deal to give Maori mere minutes of air-time.

"Now you wouldn't even blink to hear te reo spoken on national radio...or broadcast all over the world."

Chelsea Winstanley also acknowledged those forebears who had championed Māori success, saying it was her turn to pay this forward.

"A driving factor in everything I do is my kids. Because when you have kids you have to think of the future for them. You always want to make sure you leave something in a better place than you had it for yourself."

When the film maker was questioned on how proud she was of how far Māori had come in Hollywood, she says it's the industry that's been behind.

"I think Hollywood is catching up...it's really about Hollywood opening their eyes and seeing that we have always been here. Māori have always been storytellers.

"Some people might think, oh we have just arrived. But we have always been here, we have always been the most successful story tellers."

Her hope is now the rest of the world is catching on, it will open doors for Māori to tell more of their own stories...and that one day Disney won't just be seeking te reo translators.

"Will I want to have a conversation with them about our stories in our language, that we go out in te reo Māori first? Absolutely. I will always be championing us first."