Te Kūititanga

Pelenakeke Brown, Rodney Bell, Katrina George and Owen McCarthy have created a new multi-disciplinary work Te Kūititanga (The Narrowing).

This Māori / Pasifika led collaboration had it’s first development presentation with Movement Research at the Judson Church, NYC, April 1, 2019.

The work was created in Aotearoa’s (New Zealand) Māori King Country on Maniapoto whenua (land) where Rodney and his whanau (family) whakapapa to (trace their genealogy).

Curator Pelenakeke Brown had set the provocation of responding to Body Sovereignty, and Rodney’s inability to enter the USA after having overstayed.

“Body sovereignty is being in charge of how we live in relationship with our body and in charge of how our body is in relationship with the world. I have curated queer and disabled bodies as I wanted to honor each different artist, sovereign body and the inherent indigeneity of each of them. The use of the word sovereignty is deliberate as it has many legal and historical connotations and is often used in reference to fanua (land) independence. It is fitting then that each of the artists, all from the Pacific will be using their voice and personal practice to explore their personal body sovereignty. This curatorial work traverses borders, is across time zones and the moana (sea) to investigate the mana (power) and relationship between all the different sovereign bodies of the curated artists involved.”

Having now presented the work once the artists are interested in how this work could create artist-led diplomacy. Looking at the exchange of ideas around autonomy and self-governing practice for Indigenous and/or artists with experience of disability.

The work was created around the framework of pōwhiri (welcoming), held by Tangata whenua (people of the land) and the Manuhiri (visitors). Traditionally this is wāhine (female) led with a karanga (call/summon) welcoming on the visitors, this process can involve karakia (prayer) as well as wero (challenge) before the manuhiri are invited to kaikaranga back in response, as well as offering a koha (gift) for being hosted.

Rodney Bell (Ngati Maniapoto), is an Isadora Duncan award-winning artist who has extensively practised in NZ and overseas. Following his contract with USA’s leading integrated dance company AXIS (2007-2012), Rodney didn’t have the resource to return home, and ended up living on the streets and overstaying.

Rodney’s inability to enter onto US soil was an integral component to the original work, calling attention to the current immigration crisis occurring in the USA but also across the world.

Rodney’s theatrical-length autobiographical work Meremere is available through Movement of the Human.

Creative Team

Curation/Provocation Pelenakeke Brown
Performers Rodney Bell, Katrina George
Performance Design/Camera Owen McCarthy
Sound Design Grace Osborne (NYC)
Produced by Rose Kirkup, Nic Lane


NYC based artist Pelenakeke Brown was selected by the Artists of Color Council at Movement Research – NYC’s leading exploratory dance laboratory, to curate a series of dance works. She selected Rodney Bell, a leader in NZ integrated dance to present a piece around her theme, body sovereignty.

After following much discussion the team converged in Te Kūiti, Rodney’s whenua (land) in March 2019, to generate a new work honoring his sovereignty as well as the sovereign body of Te Kūiti itself.

Just as our rōpū (group) was being welcomed onto Rodney’s Pā (settlement) we could tell something was up. The aunties behind the elders were whispering and it wasn’t until we came together over kai (food) following the formal proceedings that we heard Christchurch had been struck another blow. On Friday 15 March, a sole gunman took the lives of 50 New Zealanders in an orchestrated attack at Al Noor Mosque that was streamed live on social media. A terrorist attack at the scale the country had not seen since the NZ Land Wars.

Performer Katrina George and Designer Owen McCarthy collaborated with Rodney, offering their perspectives and skills as Samoan artists. ‘Te Kūititanga’, or the narrowing, was developed from conversations between the artists and through contact improvisation between Katrina and Rodney.

Movement Research

Te Kūititanga, presented by Movement Research at the Judson Memorial Church. Featuring Katrina George, Grace Osborne, Pelenakeke Brown & Rodney Bell.

Movement Research (NYC) is one of the world’s leading laboratories for the investigation of dance and movement-based forms. Valuing the individual artist, their creative process and their vital role within society, Movement Research is dedicated to the creation and implementation of free and low-cost programs that nurture and instigate discourse and experimentation. Movement Research strives to reflect the cultural, political and economic diversity of its moving community, including artists and audiences alike.


Venue: Judson Memorial Church

A performing arts space, social justice centre, and place of worship. Beginning in the 1950s, the church supported a radical arts ministry making space available to artists for art exhibitions, rehearsals, and performances. It was to be a place where artists could have the freedom to experiment in their work without fear of censorship. Presenting artists have included Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, Tom Wesselmann & Yoko Ono. The Judson Dance Theater, which began in 1962, provided a venue for dancers and choreographers including Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, & Yvonne Rainer to create and show their work. Judson Church is located opposite Washington Square Park, in Greenwich Village, NYC.



With the support of NZ’s Arts Council Creative New Zealand, and crowdfunding through Boosted.

Te Kūiti Pa Trustees & whanau, Shannon Manawaiti, Kingi Turner, Roimata Wipaki, Morgan Whitfield, & Tommy Berridge.