Waka spectacular planned for harbour
‘‘We can tell a really big story that will, I hope, embrace so many people.’’
Wellington harbour will be the stunning setting for the launch of next year’s New Zealand Festival, organisers have revealed.
A fleet of waka will glide into the harbour at dusk on February 23, to be greeted by a karanga from actors, choirs, and a thousand-strong haka led by Te Ati Awa to mark the opening of the biennial festival.
A Waka Odyssey will see seven waka hourua (double canoes), eight waka taua (war canoes) and fleet of waka ama from around NZ helping re-tell New Zealand’s origin story, the navigation through the South Pacific to these two islands at the bottom of the ocean. The ‘‘theatrical powhiri’’ will include Trinity Roots musician Warren Maxwell playing a full musical score which will be relayed around the harbour.
The festival’s artistic director, Shelagh Magadza, said she envisions tens of thousands of people congregating at the Wellington waterfront and as the city and harbour play centre stage.
‘‘This captures so many things that are about the best kind of storytelling,’’ Magadza said.
‘‘It goes right back to the story of man, how we discovered the stars, how to tame nature and use its forces to get us where we wanted to (go) but it’s so specifically the Pacific story and it’s tied up so deeply into the cultures of NZ, not only the Maori cultures but the Pacific and the Pakeha cultures.
‘‘It’s got that really epic, heroic story behind it - all the mythologies and stories about how the waka came to NZ and then the different way of migration that came after.
‘‘What I love about it is that it is still a story happening today, and there’s a real life part of the story that you can touch and feel and experience for yourself.’’
A Waka Odyssey runs over five days with a series of events, including a whanau day on February 24 at Petone Beach where families can get close up with the waka and meet the crew, as well as other free education activities on offer in Wellington.
Magadza suggested the best viewing spots to be in front of Te Papa and the boatshed heading down toward Frank Kitts Park.
‘‘By using the waka and turning them literally into a piece of theatre on the harbour and on the land, we can tell a really big story that will, I hope, embrace so many people,’’ she said.
The creative directors behind the work include master navigator, scholar, and Haunui captain Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, award-winning director Anna Marbrook, and international artist and designer Kasia Pol.
Among other shows announced for next year’s Festival, the last under Magadza’s directorship, are Inua Ellams’ play about the interactions of men in barber shops worldwide - The Barber Shop Chronicles - fresh from a sold-out run at the National Theatre in London, and early music pioneer Jordi Savall’s group Hespe`rion XXI crossover collaboration with Mexican/ South American group Tembembe Ensamble Continuo.
The New Zealand Festival runs from February 23 to March 18.
This photo of Te Mana o te Moana, the arrival of the waka fleet to the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands, might be similar to what Wellington Harbour would look like. Shelagh Magadza