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Pukana Premieres On Maori Television

Tuesday January 24 2006

Pukana Premieres On Maori Television

Dynamic Maori language children’s programme PUKANA kicks off its eighth year of production with a new timeslot on Maori Television (Saturday February 4 at 4.00 PM).

The award-winning show is a colourful, hip and funny hour of up-to-the-minute music, cheeky send-ups, practical life skills, competitions, giveaways, and Maori language practice. As well as send-ups of familiar icons, television commercials and personalities, there are regular comedy characters, music, events and youth news – all presented in a visually energetic style with loads of camera movement, graphics and animation.

Current presenters Matai Smith, Te Atirau Paki, Taupunakohe Tocker and Marama Gardiner are all fluent Maori language speakers and talented singers, actors and reporters with a natural rapport with children. Production company Cinco Cine, based in Auckland and owned by executive producer Nicole Hoey, has a policy of engaging and training young Maori to write, present and produce television. In addition to being highly talented on camera as bilingual performers, the presenters brainstorm, research and write comedy skits, songs and educational segments for each episode.

PUKANA presenter and producer Matai Smith says the programme is targeted at Maori speakers aged between eight and 14 years but its actual audience ranges from six to 60 and includes many Maori language learners, both Maori and non-Maori. The name of the show has become an outrageous and popular identifying cry amongst fans: ‘Tahi, rua, toru, wha, Pukana ….’ accompanied by the Maori facial gesture, or pukana.

“Pukana is the art of facial expression,” Smith says. “There are several different styles depending on the emotion being communicated. The pukana can be angry, seductive, sad, scary or loving. It is used as punctuation like an exclamation mark which can highlight a particular word or message.

“It was suggested as the title of the show by former presenter Te Hamua Nikora and we felt it was great because we knew that our audience would identify with it. It gives us something visual and different to do on the show. The pukana has also become a type of greeting or acknowledgement between our audience and ourselves whenever we meet … and it’s fun!”

PUKANA is a highly interactive show with many opportunities for audience participation, both on and off screen. The crew goes out on the road in a brightly painted van named Te Waka o Pukana to film visits to kura kaupapa Maori and bilingual units as well as items from special events such as the National Primary Schools Kapa Haka Competition, the Ratana celebrations, Pasifika Festival, Variety Bash, Mai FM’s Rhythm Nation Summer Beats Concert and the show’s own annual live event, Pukana in the Park.

Children take part in on-air competitions involving sport, creative and various other skills including language while the website ( and email contests also offer access to the show. Children from the audience are selected for various tasks such as a careers’ special where they get to meet role models in their chosen career.

PUKANA won a Qantas Media Award in 2003 and the TV Guide New Zealand Television Award in 1999 for best children’s programme while Smith won best male Maori language presenter at the 2005 Maori Media Awards. The Qantas judges described the show as conveying ‘a constant and real sense of enthusiasm, energy and excitement about te reo Maori. Stylish presentation, graphics and production. Terrific viewing’.

Matai Smith (Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tamanuhiri, Kahungunu) has worked in television for 10 years. He started with TV One’s Marae programme before moving into children’s television as a presenter on Tumeke which was the initial name of PUKANA. He is now the only original presenter remaining on the show and has also become the producer of PUKANA as well as other Cinco Cine shows such as the quiz show Ihumanea.

Te Atirau Paki (Waikato, Tuhoe, Tuwharetoa) joined the PUKANA team midway through 2001. Immersed in the Maori language since he was a young child, Paki was home schooled at Te Wananga o Ahorangi through his primary and secondary school years. He learned computer graphics and has worked as a radio announcer at Tuwharetoa FM while his performance skills were developed with the touring performing arts group, Ahorangi.

Taupunakohe Tocker (Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Porou, Ngati Raukawa, Waikato) had always wanted to work in television. As a third former, she was a special guest on PUKANA in a segment on careers in which she was introduced to television presenter Tini Molyneux. Five years later, she became a presenter on PUKANA immediately after finishing school. Her education started at Te Kohanga Reo o Ritimana in Grey Lynn in Auckland and from there, she went to Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Maungawhau, Rumaki Reo at Kowhai Intermediate and Epsom Girls Grammar School.

Marama Gardiner (Ngai Te Rangi, Ngati Ranginui) is the newest member of the PUKANA team. A graduate of Te Wharekura o Hoani Waititi, she attended kohanga reo and kura kaupapa at Piripono in Otara. She won a scholarship to attend South Seas Film and Television School and then worked behind the scenes on a reality TV series, Waka Reo. PUKANA is also a dream job for Gardiner – she participated in the show while at school and sang on it at the age of 15.

Other former presenters include Quinton Hita, Te Hamua Nikora and Pirihira Hollings who have all gone on to forge impressive careers in television, while Reikura Morgan is now working behind the scenes as a writer with Maori Television’s Korero Mai. Tumamao Harawira – who left the show towards the end of last year – is now following a career in radio and Cino Cine is currently looking for his replacement.

PUKANA premieres in a new timeslot on Maori Television on Saturday February 4 at 4.00 PM.


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