Design: Archi Banal.
Design: Archi Banal.

ĀteaSeptember 12, 2023

How to get your te wiki o te reo Māori fix without leaving the couch

Design: Archi Banal.
Design: Archi Banal.

Listening to Māori music or watching tāngata whenua shows and movies is a great way to learn the language passively. 

Te wiki o te reo Māori is upon us, and one of the easiest ways to engage with the language is to watch tāngata whenua shows, movies and videos or listen to Māori music or podcasts to learn passively. Below is a list of things to watch or listen to to get your Māori language week fix, ranging from classic movies and modern shows to deep documentaries and hilarious TikToks. Some are 100% te reo Māori, others are bilingual and some are largely English but offer an indigenous lens – but they’re all worth a watch or listen to during this year’s te wiki o te reo Māori. 

TV shows 

Ahikāroa is a drama with authentic, honest writing that follows the hectic lives of urban rangatahi Māori. Season five premiered in March, so Ahikāroa is a binge-ready option on this list. If you prefer action, Kairākau – a drama showcasing historic warriors – may be more up your alley. It tells the story of a brewing inter-iwi war with plenty of exciting action to keep you on the edge of your seat. 

The main Ahikāroa cast members.
The main Ahikāroa cast. (Image: Supplied)

For less drama, how about a Māori game show? Tautohetohe pits two rōpū from different iwi against each other to test each team’s language skills through thought-provoking debates. Pukuhohe – created explicitly for te wiki o te reo Māori – uses electrifying Māori language humour and wit to entertain viewers. But Pukuhohe isn’t the only show using comedy to promote te reo Māori. 

The hilarious skits in Rere te Whiu refreshingly tackle both serious and not-too-serious kaupapa to explain how kīwaha (slang) can be used in culturally and grammatically appropriate ways when you kōrero Māori. Reo Āwhina bills itself as a way to learn te reo Māori without realising it, using humour to teach our indigenous language. 

Kapa haka 

Te Matatini 2023 catapulted kapa haka to a new level of popularity – and both its preliminary rounds and finals are available to watch retrospectively, plus Whakaata Māori has a general highlight reel.  

To understand the preparation for the national kapa haka competition, watch Wairangi Koopu’s The Road to Te Matatini. Koopu meets several groups preparing for nationals for a behind-the-scenes look at waiata tira, waiata a ringa, whakaeke, poi, mōteatea, and haka. Haka Life provides a more in-depth, three-year look into one particular rōpū, 2023 finalist Ngā Tūmanako. 

Te Kapa Haka o Te Whānau a Apanui
The overall winners of Te Matatini 2023, Te Kapa Haka o Te Whānau a Apanui (Photo: Supplied)

Te Matatini was founded in the 1970s, and to learn more about that history, look no further than Te Matatini – 50 years of Kapa Haka. Not only does Te Matatini have a half-century history, but kapa haka generally has a bright future, which Ngā Kapa Haka Kura Tuarua O Aotearoa 2022 (2022 high school nationals) showcases. 


Rediscovering Aotearoa is a bilingual series that covers many different topics, from te taiao, te reo and mātauranga to takātapui, hauora and whānau – all from a rangatahi perspective. From rangatahi to kaumātua, Karanga The First Voice celebrates the kuia who perform the ancient art form of karanga in our modern world. The series follows Taupunakohe Tocker around the motu meeting kaikaranga from 10 iwi. 

Similarly, through interviewing esteemed Māori orators, Whaikōrero examines another spoken indigenous art form. Whaikōrero unpacks how Māori speechmaking remains relevant today while maintaining its ancient sacredness. In Whakataukī, Rāhui Papa interviews te reo Māori experts to learn the context of notable proverbs and their origins.

Or for your Spinoff documentary fix check out our former Ātea editor Leoni Hayden’s series Kaupapa on the Couch

News and current affairs shows 

Whakaata Māori delivers news and current affairs in te reo Māori – Te Ao Marama being its flagship news programme, providing a broad indigenous perspective on the day’s stories. Te Ao Tapatahi is a discussion-based programme that delves into stories through iwi, New Zealand and international lenses. If you like sports, Whakaata Māori has you covered with Te Ao Toa

TVNZ also has te reo Māori news, with its popular Sunday show Marae exploring important issues through a focus on whanaungatanga and manaakitanga. Our national TV broadcaster has daily news coverage in te reo Māori, too: Te Karere, hosted by Scotty Morrison. And Three has The Hui, hosted by Julian Wilcox. 


Although movies often don’t have as much Māori language as other entries on this list, they still portray a Māori perspective (and most of the below films are free to stream). Since the 2016 release of Mahana, indigenous cinema has bloomed. Mahana is the work of legends Witi Ihimaera, who wrote the novel it’s based on, and Once Were Warriors director Lee Tamahori, who directed this film about two feuding whānau.

Lee Tamahori at the 2023 TIFF.
Lee Tamahori at the premiere of his latest film The Convert, featured at TIFF 2023. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

Both 2017’s Waru and 2021’s Cousins are heartbreaking, touching movies. Waru shows the tangi of a tamariki killed by a caregiver, and Cousins depicts the disparate lives whanaunga can lead. Then, in 2022, we got Whina, the biopic about the 1975 Māori land march figurehead, and Muru, an action flick loosely based on the 2007 raids into Tūhoe country

For more action, look no further than The Dead Lands, which follows Hongi (James Rolleston from Boy) as he avenges the treacherous death of his father. More action-packed movies include Geoff Murphy’s classic Utu – set in the 1870s and often dubbed a Māori-western – or the soon-to-be-released 1830s period piece from Lee Tamahori, The Convert (not available during Māori language week but is still worth a mention after its acclaimed premiere at TIFF). 

Don’t overlook the bonafide Māori film classics either, though, like Boy, Once Were Warriors and Whale Rider


For silky smooth singing, check out Teeks – like his rendition of Te Ahi Kai Pō supported by Ngā Tūmanako – or Rob Ruha, such as his beautiful concert with Ka Hao and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. (Check out Ka Hao too). The Waiata Anthems project is another fabulous listen, where famous Aotearoa artists recreate iconic songs in te reo Māori.

Our two Matariki national holidays have also provided excellent waiata content, including Stan Walker: Impossible Live, Maisey Rika’s Matariki i te Pō and TVNZ’s two Purapura Whetū Stars of Matariki specials (2022 featured Six60, Hollie Smith and Drax Project, and 2023 showcased Stan Walker, Paige, Coterie and Jordyn with a Why).

Traditional TV has waiata as well. While Waiata Nation follows rangatahi creating original songs, Whare Puoro features established, older artists singing in te reo Māori. TVNZ’s Tamati Rimene-Sproat is also bringing out a waiata special of his show Hongi To Hāngī: And Everything In Between during te wiki o te reo Māori, airing Wednesday, September 13 on TVNZ+

There are truly too many great waiata to list. Search around on YouTube, Spotify, or wherever you get your music, and you’ll find something you like. 

Other content for your te wiki o te reo Māori fix

Whakaata Māori has a fantastic TikTok account. Of particular note is their series Te Tari, a hilarious showcase of a Māori office. If you’re into podcasts and want to learn more te reo Māori, Whakaata Māori has you covered again with Taringa. Through tips on grammar, kupu and more, Taringa aims to normalise the Māori language. Another podcast that teaches te reo Māori is Kīwaha – Give it a go, which provides listeners with simple everyday phrases to bulk up their reo Māori arsenal. For a podcast not about learning Māori language but instead about current affairs from a Māori perspective, check out Mihingarangi Forbes’ The Hui. Or for your Spinoff fix, give our te ao Māori podcast a listen.

Whatever you choose to watch or listen to, there are plenty of ways to get your fix during  te wiki o te reo Māori. The important thing is not how you engage with the taonga that is the Māori language, but that you are engaging with it in the first place. Kia kaha te reo Māori!

This is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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