Sandi Hall

When Piwakawaka Fly - the Meri Te Tai Mangakahia story

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Meri Te Tai Mangakahia is a NZ'er to be proud of- she ranks right up there with Kiri Te Kanawa and Jean Batten. But few know of her.

You may wonder why I, a manuhiri pākeha kuia with a Canadian accent, am asking for your generosity to help make Meri's story better known. It's because our younger wahine deserve to know that there was a passionate, committed Māori suffragist who took action to help get that all-important right and freedom. Knowing about Meri, hearing her actual words, will give young wahine a sense of ownership of the vote, and pride in what Meri and others did to get it.

Helping us fund the Mercury Theatre

This is a crucial first step to telling Meri's story. This Boosted campaign is specifically to raise the deposit to secure Auckland's lovely, classic Mercury Theatre for the play's first season. The Mercury has recently opened its doors to performances again, after a near-twenty year closure. A successful Boosted campaign will secure it for our first season.

So! Please donate to our Boosted campaign - even $5 will help. And you will be part of making this remarkable Māori suffragist more widely known in her own country. 


Getting the Idea
I came to Aotearoa in January,1974, becoming part of the growing feminist movement. In 2017, when I realised that 2018 was the 125th anniversary of NZ's women achieving a world-first in getting the vote, I wondered: "What can I do to celebrate that?"

Thinking of Kate Sheppard, I wondered who were the Māori wahine working for the vote. Researching that, I found Meri Te Tai Mangakahia. When I read Meri's speech, I realised that here was a woman who was as passionate about the vote as Kate Sheppard, yet almost unknown in her own country. I immediately wanted to change that.

Being a writer, it was natural for me to write something. I decided on a stage play with songs, as I particularly wanted younger women and girls to know of her.

Forming the Charity
After contacting Meri's whanau, I worked with them on the stage play I'd conceived, titled When Piwakawaka Fly. I chose that name because of the association of the piwakawaka (fantail) with being a message-bringer. Her whanau have helped me create a musical play which tells Meri's story in words and songs.

At the same time, I decided that this project should be held in a Charitable Trust. The When Piwakawaka Fly Trust was created in March, 2018. It has five sitting Trustees, with at-large whanau receiving all the minutes of the Trust and empowered to be part of the decision-making processes.

The Bigger Picture
Initially, the goals were to ask secondary girls' schools to use the play in their drama selections, and then to take the play overseas, especially around the indigenous theatre circuit. However, before a play can be offered to schools, it first must have one successful season in a theatre. Which brings us to this Boosted campaign!

Tax Credits
Donors who are New Zealand income earners qualify for a 33% tax credit on their donations. Boosted will email a receipt after the campaign closes.


  • What amazingly generous donations!


    This is Sandi Hall, wanting each of you who donated to our When Piwakawaka Fly project to know how very much I appreciate your support -- and how elated our Charitable Trust is to have our goal reached  well ahead of the cut-off point!  Thanks very very much from me and the others on our Charitable Trust: Emma, Jill, Richard, Jen, Carina, Alex. 

    We also want you to know that we will be spending some of the money on dramaturgy and workshopping  the play.  If any of you do not wish your donation to be used for these purposes, do let us know and we shall use your donation only for the hireage of the Mercury. 

    Also, it's fair to say now that we shall do another Boosted campaign later in 2019, to raise funds for costuming, choreography, and publicity.  It would be wonderful to have your support again, if possible, as we work hard to achieve this goal. 

    Thank you, too, for giving me peace of mind as we approach the holiday season -- the best "gift" ever! Mauri ora, Sandi