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Conan Hayes, Actor 10.11.22

Conan writes on his character creation process & the importance of telling queer stories for future story tellers.

"Here’s a whakataukī I feel is important for the reclamation of our stories and for future storytellers, ‘Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua- I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on the past."

I’m a takatāpui actor/performer/artist. My job when I’m booked and blessed is to step into the shoes of other human beings and to try to authentically bring their voices and perspectives to life. This can sometimes happen on screen, stage or anywhere for that matter. It’s challenging, but most of the time it’s rewarding.

At the tail end of 2020 I worked on a local feature film called Punch directed by Welby Ings. I played the role of ‘Whetu Tipene’, A Takatāpui rangatahi Māori artist and musician who lives alone on a shack by the beach. Whetu is both strong and resourceful, yet at the same time isolated and vulnerable and what attracted me to him was how he still sees and creates so much beauty in his world despite all the toxic and patriarchal projections put onto him. A real strong individual. Punch premiered in the 2022 New Zealand International Film Festival and had a nationwide release this year.

Conan attends the premiere of 'PUNCH' at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

It had always been a goal of mine to be in a queer film. Let alone a local queer film. Being Takatāpuhi Māori I couldn’t have felt more honoured for the opportunity to represent my people and my community. At the beginning of the process I felt a weighted sense of silly imposter syndrome and responsibility playing this role. I believe this came from growing up not feeling grounded in knowing our own voices and narratives…because they were stolen from us along with many other things which need to be acknowledged and given back.

My main anchor I held onto throughout the character creation process was Whetu’s Mana motuhake. Whetu’s faith in his Tupuna, Atua and dreams was a choice I ran with and in doing so, grew closer with my own. As a creative, this is a place I have to work from and constantly be in relation with daily. I believe authentic representation, having control over our own narratives in film, T.V, and the media as Māori, as queer, as whoever or whatever you are and need to be is essential to our survival. No more white money men gatekeeping our opportunities and then making them themselves please.

Here’s a whakataukī I feel is important for the reclamation of our stories and for future storytellers, ‘Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua- I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on the past’.

Written by Conan Hayes

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