The Winds of Change

Presently New Zealand in Gisborne (named after a NZ Colonial Secretary) or Turanganui-a-Kiwa (The Great Standing Place of Kiwa) are greeting traditional Polynesian waka and tall ship replicas to commemorate the arrival of Captain Cook on the ship the Endeavour 250 years ago.

But a lot has changed in New Zealand's commemoration of our nation's past.  New Zealand history will finally be taught in our schools as a part of the curriculum nationwide and students will hopefully learn a more balanced history of this young nation. Able Tasman, the Dutch sailor who named these islands New Zealand, did not "discover" this country, there were people here living healthy productive lives for hundreds of years before Tasman arrived.  Likewise Cook the harbinger of western civilisation saw his arrival result in local deaths as two cultures met and clashed.  He fled the bay he named Poverty Bay with no supplies and no water.   If only he'd listened to his Tahitian navigator Tupaia. 

When I was at school Captain Cook was the hero and on board was a Tahitian cabin-boy.  It was only recently we learnt that Tupaia was a navigator and high priest of Tahiti who was instrumental in guiding the western explorers around the Pacific not only as a navigator but as a translator and cultural advisor until his untimely death.   New Zealand is waking up to a history that includes the stories of the indigenous people.

The winds have changed in in New Zealand's media world as well.  Since the arrival of film and television in this country Māori have agitated for the right to tell their own stories, in their way for their people.  Māori stories make up eight of the top ten earning New Zealand films.  The problem is Māori have not been in control of these stories.  Māori organisations like Ngā Aho Whakaari who represent Māori in screen are demanding that at least two of the three key creatives are Māori.  That is the Producer, Director and Writer.  Māori boast some talented directors such as Taika Waititi and Lee Tamahori but we are working to develop Māori feature film producers and Māori feature film writers but they are banging loudly on the gates.

Māori on film sets tend to be the "Māori advisors" who can and are often ignored.  While Māori crowd the multi-talented New Zealand workforce they are seldom the all powerful HODs (Heads of Departments).

Now Māori in the screen industry who produce some of the most diverse and multi-layered screen stories in Aotearoa New Zealand are saying to the government and crown entities, that's enough we want to have the resources to tell our own stories with our own voice from our own cultural lense.


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