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Actor and producer Te Kohe Tuhaka is speaking at M9 Aotearoa, an event which showcases Māori talent.


Language & Culture

M9 Aotearoa: Te Kohe Tuhaka - My culture is my superpower

Tuhaka will be one of nine speakers at M9 Aotearoa, an event which showcases Māori talent.

William Sangster, Te Rito Journalism Cadet
03 November 2023, 5:00am
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Tuhaka (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou), 41, is an actor and producer who has appeared in numerous Kiwi productions.

He is one of nine actors who will be speaking at M9 at the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre in Auckland on 16 November.

Tuhaka will be one of nine speakers at M9 Aotearoa, an event which showcases Māori talent.

This year features nine actors, writers and comedians.

It will be a two-hour extravaganza of powerful Māori voices who have come together for a very special evening, presenting nine very different stories chosen to inspire, empower and entertain.

The theme is “He Mataaho ki te Ao Whakaari - Whānau, Feeds and Fame”. The speakers will discuss their personal journeys and how Māori can forge their own paths in the acting space.


Tuhaka highlights the importance of his culture to him.

“My culture is who I am. It is what makes me unique, it’s my foundation; it is my superpower that I can draw on. I am it, and it is me.”

He is a big advocate for helping people learn the Māori language.

“Ae he reo Māori ahau, ko te reo taku reo tuatahi, ka mutu ko te reo tetahi mea nui ki au, me taku oranga" - my language is important to me; I’m always on a reo journey.

“I am a massive advocate for people learning our reo, regardless of where they come from, and love to support people speaking our reo, no matter where they are.”

Growing up, Tuhaka says tikanga Māori was important to him.

“I live my life with the use of tikanga in my day-to-day life; I don’t know any other way.

“I was brought up in those practices and [am aware of] the practicality of their use, especially around the preservation of one’s wellbeing, goals, and outlook on life.”

Tuhaka was raised in a te reo-speaking Gisborne family and attended Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.

He did not try acting until he was in high school.

“I didn’t see many Māori actors growing up. Everyone was white, so I never knew I could or was even allowed to do this acting thing. All my people played sports, worked [at] the meat works, fishing boats, and did kapa haka.”

His passion for storytelling and representation allows communities to see themselves.

Tuhaka’s unwavering belief in himself was the driving force behind his success as an actor.

“I was made for this; acting is what Te Kohe is made for. The skills and systems that I have learned and picked up along the way have just housed that belief.”

He earned roles in Taika Waititi’s short film Tama Tū, Kōrero Mai and Shortland Street, and played All Black Jerome Kaino in 2014 TV movie The Kick.

He also played Wirepa in te reo movie The Dead Lands, and co-starred in the TV series of the same name.

Tuhaka says he approaches role and film selection differently.

“What can I bring to lift this project and the people around me working on it, and how do I best serve the kaupapa?

“So that I leave knowing I’ve held my own mana and respect for my craft and abilities.”

Tuhaka says the biggest piece of advice he can give to aspiring actors relates to life after they have broken through.

“The biggest piece of advice I can give is after you get representation or an agent.

“I am serious - as artists, we can get caught in the trap of thinking we are gonna get every job, every audition.

“But when you do start to build success, the taxman will be coming for you, so get an accountant. It will save you a lot of stress, and help [you] to plan for the gaps in between jobs.”

The full line-up for the M9 event is: Tuhaka, Miriama Smith (Te Arawa), Ben Mitchell (Tainui, Ngaati Maahanga), Miriama McDowell (Ngāti Hine), Kura Forrester (Ngāti Porou), Ngahuia Piripi (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi), Awhina-Rose Ashby (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine), Edmund Eramiha (Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Tawake Ki Te Wāo Kū, Ngāti Hine), and Julian Arahanga (Ngāti Rangi, Te Āti Haunui-ā-Pāpārangi).

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