Nicola Hyland – Te Taenga Mai/The Arrival: ‘Singing Back’ to Cultural Imperialism in the Arrivals Lounge


Nicola Hyland

Victoria University Wellington

Te Taenga Mai/The Arrival: ‘Singing Back’ to Cultural Imperialism in the Arrivals Lounge

We’ve been welcoming strangers to our home for over 250 years. 

I say “welcoming”, yet the earliest visitors to Aotearoa were not only technically not invited, their mis-readings of Indigenous hospitality ended in the murders of their hosts, and in generations memorialising these moments as the [plagiarised] discovery of [an already occupied] southern land of plenty. Much has been already been written about Māori rites of encounter. These are tales told from the accounts of those being welcomed –the manuhiri–and the more muted perspectives of those playing hosts, the mana whenua. The performative dimensions of pōwhiri are recognised as expressions of contemporary Māori connection to ancestral forms, of manaakitanga (respect, generosity, hospitality), and a ceremonial ritual in unique, authentic, tourism packages. 

This paper explores performances of welcome by Hātea kapa haka roopu to celebrities in the Auckland Airport arrivals lounge. These performances exemplify the dynamic evolution of pōwhiri even within traditional forms and frames. Yet, these displays also express – through their remixing of the artists’ own work in Te Reo Māori language – something more complex about welcoming as a reciprocal experience. In this discussion, I tease out concepts of affect through a Te Ao Māori lens, contextualized within the fraught history of arrivals (as more-than-performance) in Aotearoa. I connect my own emotive response to these performances with a not-so-local history of traumatic betrayals to Indigenous hospitality.

Nicola Hyland is a Senior Lecturer and Poakorangi/Programme Director in the Theatre Programme of Te Herenga Waka/Victorial University of Wellington. Of Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi and Ngati Hāuiti descent, Nicola’s research explores representations of indigeneity in contemporary performance, intersections of youth, gender and race in performance, and devised theatre practices. Nicola is currently co-editing a monograph on devised theatre in tertiary education and co-authoring a book on the history of Māori theatre company, Taki Rua.