Article Title:Takataapui: Dental dams, luscious lesbians and tongue-twisters
Author or Credit:Chris Banks
Published on:10th August 2004 - 12:00 pm
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Story ID:364
Text:The birth of New Zealand's first television programme for the Maori queer community has not been an easy one, with opposition to the very idea of the programme coming from all corners. "When the proposal first went forward for Takatapui it was given to [Maori funding body] Te Mangai Paho alongside many other proposals for Maori television programming," says producer Anne Speir. "There was a lot of homophobia in that hui about our proposal and Te Mangai Paho saw that and recognized a real need for this programme to go to air." With that obstacle overcome, the indifference of Pakeha detractors came next. Some flicked it off as a show for a minority within a minority, therefore rendering it irrelevant. Others labeled it “political correctness gone mad” (yawn). Of course, if any of those people actually sat down to watch it, they would find a refreshing, challenging, insightful and decidedly politically incorrect half-hour of television. The reporters make the best of their limited budget, bringing a video diary feel to their items. Last week's lesbian-themed episode saw reporter Tania Simon letting viewers in on her Takatapui waka rowing team, before, after and during a competition. The team is made up of three lesbian couples, including Simon and her partner. Issues of homophobia and prejudice amongst Maori regarding inter-racial relationships were raised in a frank and matter-of-fact way, a benchmark for the show's treatment of issues in general. “I hope a lot of awareness comes out in our wider community about not judging us for what we are but seeing us for who we are,” she says. “Even within our own community we need to educate ourselves about issues of today. You can expect to hear stories you've never heard before.” Simon also profiled a lesbian couple who run a dial-a-driver business. The women don't sugarcoat their experiences – driving drunks home is not always a walk in the park (especially when the more comatose customers wake up incensed to find a “stranger” driving their car), and some customers have been banned after the odd homophobic incident. Vox-pops on the street asked various people the question “What is a lesbian?”, with surprising, saddening and sometimes hilarious (try ACT leader Rodney Hide) results. More daring members of the public were asked the additional question “What makes a luscious lesbian?”. The show isn't afraid to have fun, or be outrageous for that matter. Wairua Sadler delights in his own naughtiness, ensuring the viewing public are well-informed about the ins and outs of sexual accessories. Toys for the girls were explored in a segment that could well have been subtitled “Everything you never wanted to know about dental dams." Coming-out stories are another recurring feature of the programme, framed as mini-profiles. Each participant simply sits and tells their story, uninterrupted, for a few minutes; a simple but compelling segment. "There's a little bit of nervousness amongst some of the older Maori [about that segment]," says Speir. "It's an area where maybe there will be a few things coming out of the woodwork that may not want to be talked about, but we are not focusing on the negative. Takatapui haven't had a voice to talk about things that are really special to them, and we are not going to go and do that same sort of that journalism where 'your bad day is my good day'. We're here to celebrate who we are." Transgender presenter Ramon visited Nesian Mystik manager Adee Keil, discussing the band's rise to prominence; as well as conducting her own “hot and not” segment for lesbians, culminating in an unforgettable monologue proclaiming the perils of stalking. Take heed, girls… "We deal with themes that can often be controversial, can often be in your face,” Ramon says. “It means that we are pushing peoples buttons, especially in the Maori community. There are issues that need to be addressed, and we are people just as much as anybody else and this programme will illustrate that." Another segment – Ma Tauranga – is devoted to teaching new words, and is hosted by Taurewa Biddle. "It gives a short and concise knowledge of the words we use on the show, like 'hinehi' which means 'transsexual' or ‘hinehua' which means 'transgender'," he says. "A lot of people out there don't agree with them, but they're our words, they've been around since mairano, the days of old." While some of the programme's content may seem confrontational – indeed, a warning is broadcast before its screening stating the show deals with "gay and lesbian issues" which some may find offensive – Takatapui has no particular agenda. Executive producer Claudette Hauwiti says all it seeks is understanding. “I don't think that we want to educate anybody, but we just want to show people that this is what we do, that we are part of the community, and that we do a whole range of things that contribute in a positive manner to the community," she says. "The budgets for the programmes on Maori television aren't big, but then you make what you make for the amount of money you've got. It's not an issue if you have the right format, and I think we have the right format." Takatapui screens at 9:30pm Thursdays on Maori Television. Chris Banks - 10th August 2004    
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