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Māori designers: from traditional to contemporary

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Young Māori graphic designers are re-telling history in card games, comic books and gaming apps.

Concept art.

Concept art from Māui Studios. Photo: Image: Māui Studios Aotearoa

The four entrepreneurs behind Māui Studios say the stories of the past should be told in ways that appeal to a new generation.
Director Vincent Egan said in 2017 the stories of the past could be told differently.
“There used to be this perception around Māori being kind of stuck in tradition and we’re all about being under-privileged.
“We’re not trying to tell people how the history is – we’re contributing to what it means to be Māori now in 2017 and moving forward.”
The studios have made comic books in te reo Māori, using Māori gods as characters.

Māui Studios designers, from left, Ben Reriti-Jones, Madison Henry, Luke Egan and Vincent Egan.

Māui Studios designers, from left, Ben Reriti-Jones, Madison Henry, Luke Egan and Vincent Egan. Photo: Māui Studios

They are embarking on a new card game centred on traditional Māori pa sites and battles between Māori gods.
Mr Egan said the cards were a new way to teach all New Zealanders about te ao Māori.
“They help with matauranga – they help with pepeha, geographic locations here in New Zealand, [and] historic figures.
“Ideally we would like to develop decks and content that goes into New Zealand’s history and just re-tells it, whether it be land wars and that sort of thing, in contemporary ways.”
Auckland designer Maru Nihoniho is also incorporating Māori history into video games and helped launched Māori Pa Wars as a game app in May.
The game was officially made live just over a week ago, and has already had more than 3000 downloads.
It involves protecting a pa by using Māori warriors and traditional Māori weaponry to defend it – and you can also play the game in te reo Māori.

Maru Nihoniho helped launched the Māori Pa Wars' game application in May.

Maru Nihoniho of game studio Media Interactive in Auckland Photo: Supplied

Ms Nihoniho said using Māori stories in modern ways such as as in gaming was a natural progression for Māori who had always passed their stories down to the next generation.
“If we go way way way back, they were told to us and then we passed them on. And then, through books and other teaching mediums. We’ve had our stories told through television programmes, through movies and now through gaming.”
A key difference with gaming was that it allowed people to better engage with the story.
“Games are interactive and I guess because you’re involved and you’re making decisions that will get you to the next part of the journey then it’s quite immersive. And it also is a powerful platform to educate without educating.”
Ms Nihoniho has recently received funding for a new game book called Guardian which features Māori characters and will be available to play at the end of the year.

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Maru Nihoniho helped launch the Māori Pa Wars as a game app. Photo: Image: Supplied

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