Pup­peteer re­vives tra­di­tional art form

Kapi-Mana News - - FESTIVAL OF THE ELEMENTS -

The ‘‘awak­en­ing’’ of Maori pup­pets will con­tinue through the per­for­mance Kare­tao Puoro at the Fes­ti­val of the El­e­ments on Wai­tangi Day.

‘‘It’s an ob­scure Maori art form which is gain­ing mo­men­tum,’’ says Maori artist James Web­ster, of Whi­tianga.

‘‘It’s be­lieved to be an an­cient Maori art form which was used for in­struc­tion, train­ing, sto­ry­telling, heal­ing and other uses.’’

It is thought also that large pup­pets were used to taunt and pos­si­bly in­tim­i­date en­e­mies.

Mr Web­ster says knowl­edge is be­ing gained all the time but for him, the ‘‘awak­en­ing’’ of the pup­pets started through the work of the late Dr Hirini Mel­bourne.

He says kare­tao (Maori pup­pets) are a part of Maori cul­ture, although there is lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about them. Only a few ex­ist through­out the world and there is lit­tle doc­u­men­ta­tion about kare­tao.

How­ever, dur­ing the re­vival of taonga puoro ( Maori in­stru­ments), headed by Dr Mel­bourne, there were dis­cus­sions about the use of kare­tao and taonga puoro to­gether to en­hance and em­bel­lish the per­for­mance and de­liv­ery of many el­e­ments of Maori cul­ture through pup­petry and sto­ry­telling, au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion, and the wairua ( spirit) cre­ated through­out the ex­change.

Mr Web­ster has seven pup­pets which he de­scribes as kare­tao puoro, pup­pets with a mu­si­cal voice. Also re­ferred to as cer­e­mo­nial mar­i­onettes, they are usu­ally carved from a sin­gle piece of wood. Arms and legs are moved by strings which pass through the shoul­ders.

The move into work­ing with his carved pup­pets was a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion for Mr Web­ster who had al­ready devel­oped his skills and knowl­edge in the use of Maori in­stru­ments.

The Wai­tangi Day per­for­mance will be the tenth since he first per­formed with them. He will col­lab­o­rate with pup­peteer part­ner Jerome Ka­vanagh, of Tai­hape.

For the full fes­ti­val pro­gramme see page 18.

Photo: SUP­PLIED

Wooden won­ders: James Web­ster with his tra­di­tional Maori pup­pets, set to come alive on Wai­tangi Day.

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