It's been an exciting few weeks for Turene Jones who has seen her name in lights in the arts and cultural capital of New Zealand.

I Ain't Mad at Cha, a play written by Jones, was picked to show at Wellington's Kia Mau Festival, an indigenous showcase of theatre and dance.

"I'm amazed," Jones said.

"I freak out about how it is even being performed in the first place so to have it go somewhere else outside of Auckland, let alone the Kia Mau Festival, blows my mind."


The script revolves around a young Māori boy in 1999 and while some reviews have titled it a rap musical, Jones is hesitant.

"I don't really see the music as the driving force of the play, it's more a device to move the drama along.

"I kind of used it for the main character, when he can't articulate through words he does it through rap."

And if the title of the play, I Ain't Mad at Cha, made your ears prick up, you wouldn't be wrong in assuming the play was inspired by Tupac and his song with the same name.

While at university, Jones was tasked with writing a musical scene - although she had never put pen to paper before.

"But I listen to music when I'm trying to get ideas and I predominately only listen to rap, hip hop and RnB.

"The Tupac song came on and I thought, 'I wonder if I would get in trouble writing a rap musical?' Because it is such a controversial genre of music."

But she wrote it anyway and now has a well-rehearsed play seen by hundreds of people.


Many of the scenes were borne of Jones' own experience, including when the main character is racially profiled and accused of stealing in a dairy while reading a newspaper.

"When I was writing the play I injected all of the things I was feeling at the time, and still do, about race issues and especially about our young Māori men."

Growing up in Rotorua but now studying and living in Auckland, Jones also wanted to include a new issue she had discovered by being Māori.

"It is strange being an indigenous person in predominately white society but then going home to Rotorua where Māori are everywhere.

"I fit in [the play] not knowing where you belong in a white world but trying to fit in your culture as well which is something I feel quite often."

She said while she didn't want audiences to feel attacked, she hoped they would watch the play and start monitoring themselves.

"I am quite fair so Pākehā people would say racist things in front of me not even realising I'm Māori.

"My goal is to make people realise the little things they say can be quite hurtful."

The Kia Mau Festival started on June 1 and finished on Saturday.