Dutch waka on screen


‘‘I said to my­self, ‘What a fan­tas­tic, but am­bi­tious, idea’.’’

Welling­ton film-maker Jan Bieringa be­came in­trigued by the story of two waka be­ing built and de­liv­ered to the Volkenkunde Mu­seum in Lei­den, Hol­land, in 2009 when its di­rec­tor Steven En­gels­man first ap­proached arts trust Toi Maori Aotearoa.

Her film Te Hono ki Aotearoa doc­u­ments the com­mis­sion­ing, mak­ing and de­liv­ery of the waka. It screens at the Para­mount Theatre on April 22 as part of the World Cinema Show­case.

‘‘I re­ally did not be­lieve it would come about, but Steven came here and did all the ne­go­ti­a­tions – what would be made, how it would be made.

‘‘ Back in Hol­land, he ap­plied for fund­ing from their arts lot­tery board and that came through quite quickly.’’ The project to build the waka and her film took off from that point, she said.

Toi Maori Aotearoa com­mis­sioned Far North carver Hekenuku­mai Busby to make two waka – a cer­e­mo­nial one and one for gen­eral use – for the mu­seum.

En­gels­man trav­elled to Doubt­less Bay to meet Busby, and Bieringa filmed their dis­cus­sions.

‘‘ I sug­gested all their meet­ings be recorded, so the mu­seum could have its own au­dio-vis­ual dis­play about the his­tory of the waka,’’ she said.

‘‘I could see the con­nec­tion be­tween Hek and Steven, and I thought, this could be turned into a doc­u­men­tary.’’

Six film-mak­ers from New Zealand, Eng­land and The Nether­lands shot footage of the waka be­ing made, their jour­ney to Hol­land and the han­dover cer­e­mony at the mu­seum.

‘‘The re­ally won­der­ful thing is the whare­waka [ waka house] they’ve built there is so beau­ti­ful and sits so com­fort­ably along­side the old build­ing of the mu­seum com­plex,’’ said Bieringa.

‘‘It’s in­ter­est­ing to see it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. It even has a con­nec­tion with [Dutch ex­plorer] Abel Tas­man. The carvers vis­ited the place where he was from.’’

Four Maori carvers spent a month in Hol­land carv­ing the whare­waka.

Bieringa said she had hours of footage to work with and it had taken months to edit it.

‘‘It’s quite com­plex footage be­cause it’s been shot by a lot of peo­ple, and I needed to knit it all to­gether.’’

Along­side the main story, Bieringa has doc­u­mented the his­tory of waka- mak­ing, in­clud­ing the his­tory of the big waka that’s kept at Wai­tangi.

‘‘There is some very beau­ti­ful black and white footage of the mak­ing of that waka in 1937.’’ World Cinema Show­case, un­til April 22, Para­mount Theatre.

Pre­cious gift: A cer­e­mony to hand over two waka to a Dutch mu­seum fea­tures in Jan Bieringa’s doc­u­men­tary.

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