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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.

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Collection

The Waitangi Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Jock Phillips begins his journey through our Waitangi collection by recalling an awkward encounter with a security guard at the treaty grounds. Wandering 50 years between the first film in this collection and the last, Phillips explores changing attitudes to the Treaty. Discover everything from Mike King on the treaty trail, to trench warfare, waka-building and epic drama.

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Waka - The Awakening Dream

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

The largest gathering ever seen of Māori tribal war canoes (waka taua) was one of the centrepieces of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1990. This documentary, narrated by Tukuroirangi Morgan, followed the ambitious countrywide programme to build the ornately carved waka, and assemble them at Waitangi as a demonstration of Māori pride and unity. The 22 strong fleet, powered by 1,000 paddlers, also fulfilled a dream of Tainui leader Princess Te Puea Herangi that had been curtailed 50 years earlier by World War II.

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Tāhere Tikitiki - The Making of a Māori Canoe

Television, 1974 (Full Length)

This National Film Unit documentary records the 18-month-long building process of a waka taua (war canoe): from the felling of the trees — opening with an awe-inspiring shot of the giant totara selected by master carver Piri Poutapu — to the ceremonial launch. The waka was commissioned by Māori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, and built at Tūrangawaewae Marae. The Harry Dansey-narrated film was significant in showing the importance of the canoe-building kaupapa alongside the everyday lives of the workers (at the freezing works, the pub).

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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.  

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The Gravy - Series Four, Episode 11 (Prisons)

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of The Gravy takes an in-depth look at art in prisons. Host Warren Maxwell interviews inmates who have embraced painting or carving while serving time in Mt Eden, Paremoremo and Rimutaka prisons. At Rimutaka, art tutor Paul Bradley points out that art is a vehicle for change both for prisoners and the art audience, and former prisoners talk about how art has changed their lives for the better. Outside the walls, Warren visits at a caged exhibit of musical instruments at Artspace in Auckland and plays a few bars on the flute.

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Te Rua

Film, 1991 (Excerpts)

Variously praised as a major step forward in indigenous cinema, attacked for overambition, and little screened, Te Rua marked Barry Barclay’s impassioned follow-up to Ngati. This story of stolen Māori carvings in a Berlin museum sees Barclay plunging into issues of control of indigenous culture he would return to in book Mana Tuturu. Feisty activist (Peter Kaa) and elder lawyer (screen taonga Wi Kuki Kaa) favour different approaches to getting the carvings back home. Barclay and his longtime producer John O’Shea had their own differences over Te Rua’s final cut.

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New Zealand Mirror No. 14

Short Film, 1952 (Full Length)

This magazine newsreel mixes buried treasure with a classic Brian Brake-shot performance piece. Opener 'The Long Poi' captures a poi dance. In 'The Buried Village' tourists examine fireballs and Māori stone carvings buried in the 1886 Tarawera eruption. The final piece showcases the talents of Kiwi pianist Richard Farrell and director Brian Brake. Brake's moody studio lighting and lively compositions frame this performance of a Chopin waltz. Farrell would die in a UK car accident in 1958 — the same month Brake won his first big spread in Life magazine. 

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Whare Māori - The Wharenui (Episode Two)

Television, 2011 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of the Māori Television series looks at the place of the wharenui in Māori architecture. Rau Hoskins explores the origins and meaning of the structure, and looks at some iconic examples: a replica pataka being built in Hamilton Gardens; te hau ki turanga (the oldest surviving example of a wharenui) controversially taken by colonial forces, now displayed at museum Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington; and Ngākau Māhaki at Auckland's Unitec — designed by master carver Lyonel Grant and replete with dashboard lights from 70s Holdens.

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Moriori

Television, 1980 (Full Length Episode)

This Feltex Award-winning documentary follows two grandchildren of Tommy Solomon — the last full-blooded Moriori — on a pilgrimage to Rēkohu in the Chatham Islands, to rediscover their heritage. They learn about 1000 years of Moriori settlement: Polynesian origins, pacifist beliefs (tragically tested by 19th Century Māori invasion), carvings and a seafood-based way of life. Years before Michael King’s 1989 book Moriori: A People Discovered and Barry Barclay film Feathers of Peace, this 1980 doco launched a revival of Moriori culture, and revised popular misconceptions.