Queer And Here Episode 01 Promo. Video / Supplied
Aniwa Whaiapu Koloamatangi wishes he had had a show like Queer and Here to watch when he was growing up in South Auckland.
At the time he was acutely aware he acted and dressed differently from most kids his age.
“I feel like as soon as I came out of the womb, I was pretty obvious,” he laughs at the start of Queer and Here, a six-part NZ On Air-funded series premiering on Māori TV next Thursday, May 19, and in short form from today on nzherald.co.nz.
‘I literally used to go to kohanga wearing girls’ clothes and my mum would buy me a little purse.
“She reckons that whenever we’d go out to the mall, people would be like ‘Oh, what a beautiful daughter’ and she’d just go with it.”
While he still found himself surrounded by the love and support of his extended Pacific family, he knew not all young people who identify as LGBTIQ + were as lucky.
Globally, queer youths are consistently over-represented in suicide and mental health statistics. They are also more likely to experience depression, homelessness, and discrimination.
So as a child, Aniwa (Te Rarawa, Te Aupuri, Waikato, Tainui, Tonga), 21, tells the Herald the main thing he wishes he’d had access to was “a good television show detailing the queer experience”.
Now he has made just that. Hosted by Aniwa, whose first acting role was in the Māori bilingual web series Ahikāroa, Queer and Here takes viewers on a tour of the queer community here in Aotearoa.
“I’ve always had a passion for being able to tell Maori, Pacific and Polynesian stories.”
As he grew more comfortable in his identity, he says that desire shifted to wanting to tell “queer Māori, Pasifika and Polynesian stories”.
Aspirational and charismatic, Aniwa appears a perfect fit to host a show that aims to shine a light on characters who have historically sat outside of mainstream media.
Aniwa refers to himself as takataapui, taka for short. In te reo Māori it means queer or gay, and is used as an umbrella term. Aniwa says he doesn’t feel like he’s reclaiming the word, because it has always existed in the reo vocabulary.
“There has always been kōrero in my culture of same-sex relationships. So it wasn’t a case of … reclamation for me. It was more about figuring out that word existed and I could use it. When I found it I was like, yes, there’s a word out there that describes me “.
Each episode follows Aniwa as he interviews members of the rainbow community and the allies that help make it so warm and welcoming. From meeting one of only two gay rugby teams in New Zealand, to interviewing LGBTQI + pioneers and actors like Chloe Swarbrick, to receiving his first HIV test, Aniwa appears fearless in his pursuit to educate himself and his viewers.
Quick to admit how clueless he was upon starting the show, he says he spent to be more of a boon than a hindrance. Being upfront about the fact he’s learning along the way makes for a welcoming entry point to any curious rangatahi or young people.
“I don’t claim to have all the answers. Trust me, I was so lost.” He laughs.
“Now viewers can come along on a journey with someone who is also figuring out their own stuff.
“Having that learning experience and getting to bring people along the way, well I really hope it’s impactful.”
Asked if the show could be watched by anyone, Aniwa responded with a loud “hell, yes”.
“It’s for everyone, not just rangatahi and takas. We wanted their family and their friends to be able to watch the show and learn from it.”
In one of the most powerful moments, Aniwa interviews an “extremely butch” dad, navigating how he supports his trans daughter who recently came out.
Aniwa says what’s really “stood out most” for him has been learning “how much rich history there is to the community … how many battles we’ve had to fight.”
• Queer and Here is directed by Ramon Te Wake and premieres on Thursday, May 19 at 9pm on Māori TV and Māori +.