Disney dreams big with Māori

updated By Taroi Black

Māori photographers have collaborated with The Walt Disney company to celebrate real-life women and girls. The initiative is called Disney's Dream Big, Princess Photo Exhibition. 

Qiane Matata-Sipu (Te Waiohua) is one of the four photographers representing New Zealand in the exhibition that tells unique stories of girls from Aotearoa. Jacki Key, Imogen Wilson and Soldier Rd also collaborated in the project giving women of all ages a voice.

"It's a great opportunity to have indigenous kōhine and kōtiro on the international stage aligned with Disney. But also to amplify them and the mahi that they do."

Mereana Wairua in ngahere - Photo by Qiane Matata-Sipu / The Walt Disney Company Australia & New Zealand

"One of them being Mereana Wairua is a 7-year-old that looks at recycling the inner tubes of bikes to make raukura earrings with her mum."

Ngā Hinepūkōrero - Photo by Qiane Matata-Sipu / The Walt Disney Company Australia & New Zealand

"The other rōpū is Ngā Hinepūkōrero, four spoken word poets who are just phenomenal and share kōrero and creativity around wāhine and Māori and kaupapa Māori."

"What I would love to see is more of our own creators, more of our own graphic designers and artists and illustrators get involved so we can be creating and making these things ourselves."

Wahine Toa on horseback - Photo by Jacki Key / The Walt Disney Company Australia & New Zealand

While photographer Jacki Key doesn't have Māori heritage she felt compelled to be a part of the project after receiving an email from The Walt Disney Company in Australia to participate in the exhibition. She decided to work with whānau from Hinerupe Marae in Te Araroa and focus on stories that connect people to their culture. 

“To me a New Zealand princess will have indigenous roots, is someone who’s proud of her culture and the horse speaks about strength,” says Key.

The project coincides with The Power of Inclusion summit at Aotea Centre which highlights diversity and inclusion in the screen industry. 

New Zealand Film Commission CEO Annabelle Sheehan says, "It's really about telling our stories to the world,  Māori New Zealanders telling stories to the world whatever story it maybe, they are told in a special way I think is unique to New Zealand so yes that's the kind of place that we want to go with this conference."

The Dream Big, Princess Photography campaign aims to promote leadership development for young women across the board. 

The Walt Disney Company Australia and New Zealand, Managing Director Kylie Watson-Wheeler says, "We're delighted for this one-of-a-kind photo exhibition to be part of the important voices around the power of inclusion. We are proud that the exhibition contributes to, and celebrates, the positive impact of strong female role models around the world."