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Obituary : Wi Kuki Kaa

Obituary : Wi Kuki Kaa - shining light of Maori Theatre

Dr Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

20 February 2006

Aue, aue! Kua tau te hau tonga, ara te hau makariri o te ringa kaha o Aitua. Kei te rangatira, kei te hoa, haere atu ra ki o taua tupuna matua. He whariki mo matou nga morehu o nga waka. Haere te rangatira, haere.

The Maori Party today mourns the loss of an extra-ordinary performer, a multi-talented artist, and a beloved personality of Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu, who delighted in treating the world as a stage, Wi Kuki Kaa.

“Aotearoa is all the richer for the gifts Wi Kuki shared with the nation” stated Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader, Maori Party. “He has been in our theatres, on our large screens and in our homes through television, video and now DVD for over four decades”.

“Wi Kuki is an old boy of Te Aute College who will be missed through-out the motu” said Dr Sharples.

Wi Kuki Kaa is remembered for his award-winning role as ‘Iwi’ of the Ngati Tribe in Ngati (1987), as a homeless man confronting memories of the Vietnam War in Turangawaewae (2003); as ‘Old Koni’ in Taniwha-Water Spirit; as ‘Wiremu’ in Utu (1983); as ‘Rewi’ in Te Rua (1991) as ‘King Tynah’ in The Bounty (1984) and for an extensive range of other films, and short features.

“He was an outstanding actor who was able to bring life to a huge range of characters” said Dr Sharples. “Indeed, he was a very versatile performer - able to give of his best to roles as diverse as the ‘travelling scarecrow maker’ in Worsel Gummidge; ‘Bible Bill’ in the TV series The Strip, or ‘Nikolu Yaramoto’ in Spyforce (The Samurai)".

“Wi has left a proud legacy of talent and composition” stated Tariana Turia, co-leader, Maori Party. “Whilst the nation is right now able to admire his distinctive presence in The River Queen (as the grandfather), our tamariki and kura will have an enduring memory through the many different stories he recorded for school publications".

“I will always remember Wi Kuki for demonstrating the passion of performance” said Tariana Turia. “He was the ultimate artist - performing Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People”; composing bicultural opera and Taku Wana, the Enduring Spirit with Helen Fisher; writing short stories and other literature; and more recently an amazingly evocative music-video clip with Trinity Roots (Little Things). His strength of character was able to appeal to all generations, and make vital connections across all cultures".

“Wi Kuki had such energy and charisma that I think we all saw him as immortal” said Tariana Turia. “In fact, it was only just before Christmas that he withdrew from the role of ailing war hero Te Keepa Rangihiwinui in Dr Buller’s Birds - Survival of the Fittest, which opens this Saturday night as part of the International Arts Festival. Knowing Wi, I am sure his presence will be there on opening night".

“Wi Kuki Kaa was a veteran artist in all senses of the word” said Tariana Turia. “ “We share with his whanau, the profound loss of a remarkable man. His people of Ngati Porou refer to Te Uranga o te Ra, the shining of the rays on Mount Hikurangi. With the passing of this radiant light of the Maori theatre world, the clouds have no doubt settled upon Mount Hikurangi, and upon us all, as we farewell this descendant of Ohinewaiapu”.


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