This programme is named Mataora, the Māori word for life. Mataora is also the name of a Māori rangatira, whose story includes themes of emotion, redemption, healing, humanity, and art; all themes that are captured in the Mataora programme.

The story of Mataora recounts how he fell in love and married a tūhere (spirit) named Niwareka, from Rarohenga (the underworld). One day, he hit Niwareka, who fled this violence and returned to the underworld to join her people. Mataora followed her to the underworld, consumed by remorse. There he not only eventually found redemption, but was trained in the art of tā moko or facial tattooing. He returned to Te Ao Tūroa (the natural world) with Niwareka and with a facial tatoo. This is said to be the origin for Māori facial tattooing (from Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand).