Selwyn Frederick Muru (Herewini Murupaenga)

Te Aupouri, Ngāti Kurī, Ngāti Muri Kahara, Te Whakatōhea


Selwyn Muru was born in Te Hapua, Tai Tokerau, and was educated at Northland College and Ardmore Teachers’ College where he obtained a New Zealand Trained Teacher’s Certificate. He taught at Matakana District High School in 1960 and Huiarau Primary School in Ruatahuna in 1961. In 1962 he began working as a full-time painter and was also a part-time Art Tutor at Mt Eden Prison and a professional pianist. From 1963-64 he was involved with the feature film Runaway as an actor, art director, adviser, composer, musician and set builder. Muru was a part-time lecturer in art at Victoria University’s Adult Education Department and from 1967-70 he was appointed Assistant to Head of Programmes at Radio New Zealand where he launched Te Puna Wai Kōrero, a weekly current affairs programme in English on Māori issues, and Te Reo o Te Pipiwharauroa, a weekly current affairs programme in Māori. After Wiremu Parker’s retirement, Muru reported and read the national weekly broadcast News in Māori, and from 1967-70 he helped script and narrate Māori programmes on the Looking at New Zealand weekly television series. From 1970-77 Muru was Radio New Zealand’s Programme Organiser for Māori and Pacific Island Programmes, Auckland. From 1977-79 he was National Cultural Affairs Consultant for the Department of Māori Affairs, was Arts Adviser to the Ministry of Works, Māori Affairs Representative on Historic Places Trust, and Māori Affairs Representative on the Planning Committee for South Pacific Arts Festival in Papua New Guinea.

Muru wrote editorials for The Dominion, Evening Post and the Listener, and wrote the first Māori language play to be broadcast on radio: Te Ohaki A Nihe (The Gift of Nihe). This was later adapted for television.

In 1973, along with Hone Tuwhare and Para Matchitt, he was one of the founders of the Māori Writers and Artists’ Association (Ngā Puna Waihanga). He acted in Rowley Habib’s play Death of the Land (1978), and in Hone Tuwhare’s play On Ilka Moor B’aht ‘at. Muru also worked as a broadcaster and director of radio and television. In the 1980s he was a columnist for the Sunday Star. He wrote plays for theatre and television and wrote a film script, Milo Dobro Ehoa, concerning the Māori-Dalmatians relationship in Northland’s gumfields.

Muru had an active involvement in television work, writing scripts, advising, reporting, producing documentaries.

In 1980 he was appointed Māori Adviser for General and Special Interest Programmes at Television New Zealand and was director/reporter for the television series Koha. In 1982 he wrote the stage play 'Get The Hell Home Boy' which was performed at the New Zealand Independent Theatre. In 1983 he helped to coordinate a symposium on Art and Drama with Don Selwyn at the Waiatarau Centre in Auckland. In 1984 he represented Māori at the first Pan Pacific Writers’ Conference at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji and delivered three papers. In 1985 he wrote a second stage play 'The Gospel According To Taane' which was staged at Mercury Theatre. From 1985-93 he was a consultant for Television New Zealand, part-time tutor at Te Taonga Films established by Don Selwyn and continued to exhibit his art work at a number of exhibitions. In 1986 he wrote, directed and produced 'The Mataatua Canoe Reunion', and was an adviser on the Māori episode of the television Legacy programme with Michael Noonan. In 1987 Muru, Don Selwyn and Brian Kirby established the first Māori Training Course for television and Muru tutored in scriptwriting, directing, editing and Māoritanga. In 1988 he wrote a regular column on Māori issues in the Sunday Star. In 1990 he was commissioned to write articles on Māori language and broadcasting for the New Zealand Geographic 1990 publication. In 1991 he was commissioned to write an article on Māoritanga for the American international magazine Travel and Leisure. In 1991 he was invited by Northland Polytech to be their artist-in-residence and guest lecturer. In 1992 Muru was a guest speaker at the Australasian and Pacific Art Educators’ Conference in Auckland. From 1993-97 he held dual Senior Lectureships at the University of Auckland as Senior Lecturer in Māori Whaikōrero and Senior Lecture/HOD of Contemporary Māori Art at the Elam School of Fine Arts. In 1993 he assisted Jane Campion to write the Māori part of The Piano. In 1997 he recorded audio tapes in English and Māori to accompany the Goldie exhibition at Auckland City Art Gallery which later toured Australasia.

Muru exhibited his painting and sculptures in New Zealand and overseas. In 1995 he was invited by the National Art Gallery to represent New Zealand artists by exhibiting at the first International Biennale held in Johannesburg, South Africa, which celebrated the end of apartheid.

Muru's contributions to Māori Visual art, broadcasting, journalism and whaikōrero was recognised in 1990 by the awarding of Te Waka Toi's Te Tohu mō Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu Award.

Biographical sources

  • Correspondence from Selwyn Muru, 9 Sept. 1998.
  • Te Ao Mārama: Regaining Aotearoa: Māori Writers Speak Out. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 2: He Whakaatanga O Te Ao: The Reality. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1993. 244.


  • Looking at New Zealand. No details.
  • Muru helped script and narrate several Māori programmes on this weekly television magazine series.
  • Episode for Open House. Television drama series. No details.
  • From Stone Adze to Chainsaw. No details.
  • A one-hour television documentary on the history of Māori sculpture.
  • "The Moki Fish Story." Koha. Television New Zealand (TVNZ). No further details.
  • "Hoani Waititi Story." Koha. Television New Zealand (TVNZ). No further details.
  • "The Māori Golden Age." Koha. Television New Zealand (TVNZ). No further details.
  • "Taputeranga." Koha. Television New Zealand (TVNZ). No further details.
  • "Cowboys of the East." Koha. Television New Zealand (TVNZ). No further details.
  • The Tattooed Women. Reynold’s Films, 1972. No further details.
  • Muru narrated and helped write this documentary which was produced by Reynold’s Films.
  • Episode for Impressions. 1973. No details.
  • An episode on the far north for the seven part series which was New Zealand’s entry for the 1973 Asian Broadcasting Union Competition for the ‘Best Ethnic Programme’ for the year.
  • Non-fiction

  • "The place of women in Māori society." NZ Listener 7 May 1973. 20.
  • An edited version of a radio programme entitled ‘The Women in Māori Society’ which was broadcast on Feminine Viewpoint in December 1972, with Selwyn Muru, Mrs Tilly Reedy, Dr Pat Hohepa, and Paraone Puriri. The speakers note the Māori women who have asserted their right to speak on the marae and the tribal differences on this issue.
  • "Ratana Birth Rebirth." Tu Tangata 1 (Aug./Sept. 1981): 27-29.
  • A descriptive account of the annual celebration of the birthday of Tahu Potiki Wiremu Ratana at Ratana Pa in 1981.
  • "Animal Farm." Sunday Star 16 Oct 1988. No further details. Rpt. in Te Ao Mārama: Regaining Aotearoa: Māori Writers Speak Out. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 2: He Whakaatanga O Te Ao: The Reality. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1993. 244-246.
  • A critique of New Zealand’s media coverage of Colonel Rabuka’s coup in Fiji. Muru writes that the coup was ‘simply a matter of mana; recapturing it and ensuring aliens don’t ever take it over again in the way that Māori mana has been trampled and torn to shreds in the last 150 years.’
  • "Fruits of Rehua - God of Creativity." New Zealand 1990: Official Souvenir Publication. Auckland, N.Z.: Dow, 1990. 108-112.
  • In this essay on the arts and media in New Zealand, Muru writes of the great Māori orator Te Pairi of Tuhoe whom Muru asserts ‘epitomised the power of Māori creativity’. Muru also discusses others involved in Māori theatre and literature, Pakeha poets and painters, and notes the divergence between contemporary Māori artists and traditional Māori artists.
  • "The Power Of Te Reo." New Zealand Geographic 5 (Jan.-Mar. 1990): 99-106. An extract is rpt. in Te Māori News 1.4 (May 1992): 10.
  • Muru writes of the ‘halcyon days’ growing up in a Māori speaking environment which ‘came to an abrupt end when [he] went to school.’ He discusses the marginalisation of the Māori language since the signing of the Treaty but notes the huge contribution of Wiremu Parker and Pei Te Hurinui Jones in promoting the language. In conclusion he describes the great oratory of Te Pairi of Tuhoe and the origins of kohanga reo in the 1980s.
  • "Racism in the Media." Planet. 1992. No further details.
  • "Maori and the media." Planet (Sum 1994): 28-29.
  • "A glimpse of genius." Mana : the Maori news magazine for all New Zealanders (Oct/Nov 2003): 52-58.
  • Co-authors Selwyn Muru, Marilyn Webb and Para Matchitt.
  • Other

  • "Being Born, Living, Dying - All Together." NZ Listener 27 July 1974: 14-15.
  • An abridged version of an interview arranged by Bruce Morrison, producer of the TV arts programme "Review", which was conducted at the Māori Writers Conference in Wairoa in June 1974. Tuwhare talks about his introduction into poetry and other aspects of his life as a poet with Mana Cracknell, Rowley Habib and Jenny Elworthy.
  • "Polynesian Students Talk About School." Multi-Cultural School 5 (1976/1977): 19-20.
  • Transcript of part of an interview that Muru conducted with Polynesian secondary school students which was broadcast over Radio New Zealand.
  • Papers/Presentations

  • "Māori Oratory As An Art Form." Pan-Pacific Writers Conf. U of the South Pacific, Fiji. 1984.
  • This was one of three papers presented by Muru at the first Pan Pacific Writers Conference at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji, held in 1984.
  • "Contemporary Creative Writing In New Zealand." Pan-Pacific Writers Conf. U of the South Pacific, Fiji. 1984.
  • See annotation for "Māori Oratory As An Art Form."
  • "The Process of Documentary Making." Pan-Pacific Writers Conf. U of the South Pacific, Fiji. 1984.
  • See annotation for "Māori Oratory As An Art Form."
  • Performing Arts

  • Get the Hell Home Boy. Dir. Garry Taylor. Prod. Ray Waru. New Independent Theatre, Auckland, N.Z. 1982.
  • This play was written in 1979 as a radio play and was first produced on stage in the Auckland, N.Z. Festival of 1982. ‘It centres on the Māori need for communal and cultural identity, the sense of belonging to ones people and the strong ties to the land and to ancestors; it centres on the disorientation in our modern urban technological society where the Māori is expected to accept the mores of Pakeha society whilst sometimes forfeiting ones own mana and individuality. The play was sponsored by the Auckland, N.Z. Māori Artists and Writers, produced by Ray Waru and directed by Garry Taylor....The action of the play takes place in the holding cells of the Auckland, N.Z. District Court, a jail and a small town north of Auckland, N.Z.’ [Ref. Paki Cherrington. Tu Tangata 7 (Aug./Sept. 1982): 23.] This play was performed at the New Independent Theatre.
  • The Gospel according to Taane. Dir. Rangimoana Taylor. Per. Te Ohu Whakaari. New Depot Theatre, Wellington, N.Z. [19??]
  • The play was performed at the New Depot Theatre in Wellington, N.Z., by Te Ohu Whakaari and directed by Rangimoana Taylor. The play was also performed at the Mercury Theatre.
  • Te Ohaki a Nihe. [Auckland, N.Z.]: IWA, 1992. Published in Māori and English.
  • This play was originally written for radio and was the first Māori language play broadcast on radio during Māori Language Week in 1978. It was adapted for television and was the first Māori language play screened by TVNZ and shown during Māori Language Week in 1982. The play was produced by Ray Waru. ‘The play...centers round the kaumatua, Nihe sharing his last days with the whanau surrounding him. Nihe shares the family’s love of gambling on the horses and he dies providing them with a winner in more ways than one.’ [Ref. Tu Tangata 6 (June/July 1982): 8]
  • Poetry

  • "Maori language lives." Sunday Star Times, (9 Feb 1997): C5.
  • "A translation of Hone Tuwhare's poem 'Martin Luther King." Ka mate ka ora (Dec 2008): 2.
  • Reviews

  • "Books." Evening Post (21 May 1993): 5.
  • Sound recordings

  • Te Reo O Te Pipiwharauroa. No details.
  • Muru launched a weekly current affairs programme in Māori. Muru reported and read this national weekly broadcast following Wiremu Parker’s retirement.
  • Te Puna Wai Kōrero. 1YA; National Network, n.d.
  • Muru launched this weekly current affairs programme in English on Māori issues. It began as a local 1YA programme but after one year was moved to National Network because of popular demand.
  • "The Women in Māori Society." Feminine Viewpoint. Dec.1972.
  • An edited version of this radio programme was reprinted in NZ Listener entitled "The Place of Women in Māori Society." NZ Listener 7 May 1973: 20. Selwyn Muru, Tilly Reedy, Dr Pat Hohepa, and Paraone Puriri discuss the Māori women who have insisted on their right to speak on the marae and note the tribal differences on women’s speaking rights and the role of women in the marae setting.
  • Traditional

  • "Nau Paraone Kawiti Puriri." Te Kaea: The Māori Magazine 1 (Dec. 1979): 3.
  • In Māori.


  • Te Ao Hou 43 (1963): 8.
  • A brief note on Muru’s success at the 1963 Auckland Society of Arts Exhibition where six paintings by Muru were selected for the exhibition.
  • Vincent, Rosemary. "Selwyn Muru’s Paintings Win Wide Acclaim." Te Ao Hou 46 (1964): 25-27.
  • Reviews

  • "Selwyn’s Waharoa." Te Iwi o Aotearoa 41 (1991): 21.
  • Get the Hell Home Boy
  • Cherrington, Paki. Tu Tangata 7 (1982): 21-23.
  • Te Ohaki a Nihe
  • Sullivan, Robert. "Aimed at the Abuser’s Eye." Dominion Sunday Times 26 July 1992: 20.
  • "Te Ohaki a Nihe." Tu Tangata 6 (June/July 1982): 8-9.
  • Tu Tangata 7 (1982): 8-9.
  • The Gospel According to Taane
  • "The Gospel According to Taane." Tu Tangata 13 (Aug./Sept. 1983): 8.