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.