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Inspiring indigenous women with NUKU

NUKU is a new multimedia series "led by, made by, made for Indigenous women" says founder Qiane Matata-Sipu. For the longest time indigenous women have been misrepresented and underrepresented in the media, Qiane sees the gap and wants to fill it with voices that truly speak for this group.

95bFM’s News and Editorial Director Lillian Hanly interviewed Qiane, who is of Te Wai o Hua, Waikato-Tainui, Ngā Puhi and Cook Island descent, about her growing platform. Below is a written piece by Trixie Miranda following the interview, edited by Lillian Hanly.


NUKU is a creative storytelling project that is working to profile 100 women through podcasts and portrait imagery posts online. Qiane Matata-Sipu is making the most of the developing digital age and using it as a platform to share the truth about indigenous women’s identities.

Working as a freelance journalist, Qiane always knew she was a storyteller and an artist. She wanted to move to a more creative practice and make the most out of her skill in sharing stories visually. Through working in the media industry for almost 15 years, she now wanted to produce a project that meant something to her and her community. She asked herself, "What is it that I wanna do? What story do I wanna tell? What impact do I want in this world?" Qiane shares that she was always "drawn to topics around identity, around women and in particular around indigenous women".

Through a conversation with her nan, she realised she truly wanted to create something that could impact women. Women who do not necessarily conform to the 'mainstream', but are often dismissed from the mainstream. Qiane believes it’s time to highlight stories of these indigenous women "who are successful, who create change, and do things differently." In the process of developing the project, she fell pregnant to a baby girl. "I was bringing into this world another indigenous woman," says Qiane, "I always say NUKU came with her. It’s called NUKU, it’s reflective of our ultimate female essence, of our tupuna Papatūānuku."

Although Qiane does have a lot of support, she works independently as an artist and a journalist. "I do all the interviewing, I do all the photography, I do all the podcasting and uploading and managing of the website" says Qiane. But she also emphasises the fact that she does not do this all alone, she often has other indigenous women helping her with videography and makeup. Qiane has put together an amazing team who "awhi the kaupapa" she shares proudly.

When in the process of the photoshoot and videography, Qiane makes sure that NUKU is an open collaboration with her and the candidate. “NUKU is about representing who they are authentically” says Qiane.
By allowing candidates to be authentically who they are, NUKU is able to produce a media series that is truthful and transparent, encouraging other indigenous women to be who they are as an individual. “We should be dictating the narrative” shares Qiane, “especially the narrative that reflects who we are and what we’re talking about”. She wants to indigenous women to redefine the identity of indigenous women, instead of stereotypes and expectations that were built through non-indigenous dominated media.

Qiane chooses candidates who are “kickass, Indigenous, Wahine, doing something different”. These are the only requirements. This is to kick start a more widespread conversation with other women who might identify or be inspired by the NUKU candidates. NUKU is hoping “to entertain us, to share a collective wisdom with us, to inspire us, and just to have that kōrero that we would have if we were to be sitting in front of them”.

Nuku is now up to number 15 out of 100 of their candidates. Kim Tairi is a university librarian combating the preconceived idea of a stereotypical librarian. Qiane recently spoke to Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan who is an activist, writer and poet and a tōhunga of taonga puoro who has worked in rape crisis centres and prison rehabilitation. You can see the rest of the kickass wāhine here.

Qiane Matata-Sipu is working to celebrate and acknowledge indigenous women. She believes that through creating this space that allows women to speak of their beliefs and achievements it gives more space to all of the different ways in which to be a kickass, indigenous wāhine doing something different. “Let’s empower each other and grow each other for our whānau, for our grandparents and our parents, and most importantly for our tamariki and our mokopuna” Qiane says, "so when it’s their turn, it will be reflective of who we are.”


Full interview here.

Photos from the NUKU website.