Larissa FastHorse on Merata Mita

“She changed the lens through which her people were seen.”

Merata Mita — filmmaker, teacher, activist, storyteller, wife, mother of six– did it all. And in doing so, she changed the lens through which her people were seen. Born in New Zealand, raised in the traditional teachings of the indigenous Polynesian people known as the Māori, Mita used film and video to reach her high school students, most of whom were Māori and considered “unteachable.” This multi-faceted artist went on to become her culture’s first female writer/producer/director of a feature film. Playwright Larissa FastHorse tells of her mentor’s influence on other indigenous artists as well as the impact Merata Mita made possible by giving voice and value to her own stories and those of her people.


Larissa FastHorse

Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota) is an award winning playwright. Larissa’s produced plays include The Thanksgiving Play (Playwrights Horizons, Artists Rep), What Would Crazy Horse Do? (KCRep, Relative Theatrics), Urban Rez (Cornerstone Theater Company, ASU Gammage, NEFA National tour 2019-20), Landless and Cow Pie Bingo (AlterTheater), Average Family (Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis), Teaching Disco Squaredancing to Our Elders: a Class Presentation (Native Voices at the Autry), Vanishing Point (Eagle Project) and Cherokee Family Reunion (Mountainside Theater).

Featured Woman

Merata Mita

A passionate advocate for Māori creative control, director Merata Mita (1942 — 2010) chronicled landmark moments of protest and division in Aotearoa. Her work included Patu!, a documentary on the 1981 Springbok tour, and Mauri (1988), only the second feature to have a Māori woman as director. She features in documentaries Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen and Merata Mita – Making Waves.