He Tohunga Whakairo

Television, 2002 (Full Length)

This 2002 documentary profile of the late Ngāti Porou master carver and 2013 Arts Foundation Icon award winner Pakariki Harrison won that year’s Best Māori Language Programme at the TV Guide NZ Television Awards. The documentary follows Harrison, the eldest of 21 children from Ruatoria, who honed his practice while still a student at Te Aute College in Hawke’s Bay and who left a legacy as one of the finest tohunga whakairo (expert carvers) of his generation. It also examines the unique chisels used by the carver, and their specific uses and patterns.  

Kete Aronui - Richard Nunns

Television, 2007 (Full Length Episode)

Richard Nunns is a renowned expert in taonga pūoro — traditional Māori instruments like wood and bone flutes. This 2007 episode of the Māori Television arts show sits down with him as he narrates his collaboration with Brian Flintoff and the late Hirini Melbourne — “a magic coalition of separate skills” — and the journey they’ve undertaken to resurrect lost sounds. Inspired by museum objects, literature and song, the trio led the revival of the form in contemporary Aotearoa. Nunns says the pūoro would’ve functioned as “a cellphone to the divine” for tohunga (experts).

Māori Arts & Culture No. 1 - Carving & Decoration

Television, 1962 (Full Length)

This 1962 National Film Unit production is a comprehensive survey of the history and (then) state of Māori carving. Many taonga are filmed on display at Wellington’s Dominion Museum, and the design aspects of ‘whakairo’ are examined, from the spiral motif to the origin of iconic black, red and white colouring. Finding reviving tradition in new “community halls”, the film shows the building of Waiwhetu Marae in Lower Hutt in 1960, recording the processes behind woven tukutuku panels and kowhaiwhai patterns, as the tapping of mallets provides a percussive presence.

Lost in Translation 5 - The Bay of Plenty Sheet (episode five)

Television, 2009 (Full Length)

This fifth episode of comedian Mike King’s Treaty discovery series goes on the trail of the two sheets that travelled around the Bay of Plenty in 1840. One, carrying a forged signature, travelled east with young trader James Fedarb (King asks why, despite gathering 26 signatures in 28 days, the salesman is largely missing from the history books); the other went south with a pair of missionaries. King learns about the Te Arawa and Tūwharetoa refuseniks from Paul Tapsell — and from Tamati Kruger, the reason Fedarb didn’t venture into Tūhoe territory.

Ashes

Television, 1975 (Full Length)

Before turning to directing, Barry Barclay did more than five years training to become a priest. That experience surely percolates through his film Ashes, with its reflections on identity, spirituality and living (or feeling) apart from others. The film centres on the thoughts of four people: an artist, a woman struggling with her identity as a high achiever, an actor, and a priest. Are all of them acting, or only Sam Neill? The film features readings from Ash Wednesday, the poem written by TS Eliot after converting to anglicanism. Ashes screened on NZ television on 17 March 1975.

Wai 262

Film, 2006 (Full Length)

In 1991 six tribes took a major claim to the Waitangi Tribunal, encompassing everything from intellectual rights to management of indigenous fauna. Law professor David Williams describes Wai 262 as “the most important claim the tribunal is ever going to hear”. This backgrounder interviews key claimants from three Northland tribes. In 2011 the Tribunal’s Wai 262 report recommended major law reform, arguing for Crown and Māori to shift to a forward-thinking relationship of “mutual advantage in which, through joint and agreed action, both sides end up better off”. 

Aroha: A Story of the Māori People

Short Film, 1951 (Full Length)

Aroha depicts a young Māori chief's daughter who embraces the modernity of the Pākehā world (attending university in Wellington) while confronting her place with her own people (Te Arawa) and traditions at home. The NFU-produced dramatisation is didactic but largely sensitive in making Aroha's story represent contemporary Māori dilemmas (noted anthropologist Ernest Beaglehole was the cultural advisor). Watch out for some musical treats, including an instrumental version of classic Kiwi song, 'Blue Smoke' and a performance of the action song 'Me He Manu Rere'.

The Makutu on Mrs Jones

Short Film, 1983 (Full Length)

A culture clash story by Witi Ihimaera inspired this comic drama, which marked the directing debut of screen veteran Larry Parr. Set in the mist-shrouded Taranaki hamlet of Whangamomona in the 1940s, the short film focuses on the conflict between a local tohunga, Mr Hohepa (Sonny Waru) and feisty Pākehā Mrs Jones (Annie Whittle) — as viewed by the young boy who helps deliver her mail and groceries (Julian Arahanga, in his screen debut). The locals think Hohepa has placed a makutu (or curse) on Mrs Jones. But could more basic human emotions be at work?

Epidemic - Hemi Te Koaka (First Episode)

Television, 1976 (Full Length Episode)

Part one of a four part thriller written by Keith Aberdein. In a small North Island town, a mysterious unmarked grave is believed to hold the remains of a tohunga who died ridding his people of a deadly epidemic. Now, an archaeological dig might be getting too close to that grave. A visiting doctor (Cathy Downes) arrives in town to find the locals in a state of agitation; the archaelogist (Martyn Sanderson) full of good intentions, but unaware of where his actions could lead; and relations between Māori and Pakeha strained as two cultures struggle to co-exist.

The Life and Times of Te Tutu - 5 (Series One, Episode Five)

Television, 2000 (Full Length Episode)

In the tradition of Billy T's 'first encounter' skits, this series used satire to examine pre-Treaty of Waitangi relations between tangata whenua and Pākehā settlers. The topic of this fifth episode is health. After Te Tutu (Pio Terei) wakes with a bad back, his daughter Hine Toa (Rachel House) suggests trying out some alternative medicine: Pākehā bedding. Newly arrived Nurse Veruca (a cameo from Susan Brady) clashes with comical tohunga Tu Meke (William Davis) and stirs up symptoms in Henry Vole. Terei has commented that the show's take-no-prisoners humour was ahead of its time.