The Story of Creation: The Ngā Atua Māori Project

Lee Timutimu, CEO and Founder, Arataki Systems – November 11, 2021


Kia ora! Ko Lee Timutimu tōku ingoa. My name is Lee Timutimu, and I’m a digital native from Aotearoa New Zealand. I affiliate with the Māori tribes of Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Te Rangi, Tūhoe and Ngāti Porou.

In our culture, knowledge, and information is passed down from generation to generation through stories. Ours is an oral tradition and I’ve dedicated the last 12 years of my life to reviving our oral tradition of storytelling as well as revitalizing our pūrākau (ancient stories) through a Māori storytelling collective that I founded called Te Reo Wainene o Tua.

Through the company we founded Arataki (A Māori owned, whānau (family) owned tech company ) our goal has been to bridge the cultural gap between communities by sharing our stories with as many people as possible.

I’m a strong believer that using tech to tell our stories will enable us to share at scale and achieve this goal. Arataki effectively represents the convergence of my two passions which are Māori storytelling and technology.

When we were approached by Meta to participate in this project, I must admit it felt a little surreal. Not often (if ever) do we get approached with an opportunity to collaborate with one of the world’s largest tech conglomerates!

But such a task came with a massive responsibility – as kaitiaki to ensure that we are retelling the stories of our tūpuna or ancestors authentically and respectfully. It is so very important to us that we always represent and retell our pūrākau correctly and appropriately in anything and everything we do.

We chose to tell this – Our creation story. It’s the ancient story or pūrākau where our existence began. It is the story that began all stories in our culture. Our thought process in using this story was simple. The creation story does not belong to any one individual, group, or collective. It belongs to all Māori.

We felt it was safe to represent this particular story since we whakapapa Māori (we are Māori, and have genealogical ties to Māori). In doing so, it was imperative that we not use a story that was linked to any one individual, tribe, or location, because simply put they are not our stories to tell, nor do we have the mandate to do so.

My sincere hope that this mahi (work) and our partnership with Meta will inspire our Rangatahi Māori (Māori youth) to do the same.

I think our work with this project goes a long way to emphasizing this empowering message to our Rangatahi, as well as other Māori tech companies, by showing them that if Arataki can do it, they can do it too. Similarly, I also hope that our work here inspires other Indigenous tech companies around the globe to do the same.

This is important to us because it’s crucial that we maintain control and creative license over our stories and narrative. Indigenous stories need to be told by their people and maintain the authenticity, provenance, and Mana (credibility). It also demonstrates our capability and capacity as a small Māori owned tech company is partnering with a global conglomerate like Meta and using their platforms to tell our story in our way.

We hope it informs and educates our non-Māori audience about our Tikanga (culture) and Te Reo (language). We hope this project helps to bridge the cultural divide, and not just locally here in NZ, but around the globe as well.

“In the beginning, there was Te Kore, or the great void, a void where nothing was felt or possessed, but in the void was energy and potential.”

From nothing, came the spark for an idea. From that idea, came the potential for creative collaboration between Arataki and Meta. And from that creative idea came a wonderfully crafted digital representation of our creation story Ngā Atua Māori!

The project was created alongside Meta, Meshminds Foundation, Andrew Baker, and my brothers and fellow indigenous storytellers at Māui Studios, and my Te Reo Wainene o Tua storyteller collective and Anzac Reihana Tasker.

Arohanui ki a koutou katoa.


Lee is CEO & Founder of Arataki Systems. He’s worked in the IT industry for almost 20 years, primarily in the IT support services space. He has deep networks and relationships into the Māori tech ecosystem and public and private sectors in Aotearoa NZ. He’s also the Founder of Te Reo Wainene o Tua, Co-Founder of Ko Maui Hangarau and Kaihautū of the Māori Tech Association. Lee was born and raised in Whakatāne, but now lives with his whānau in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton).

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