May 8, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Merata Mita’s film Mana Waka screens in Wellington

2 min read

This years New Zealand International Film Festival will have a brush with royalty when Maori King Tuheitia attends a special screening of Merata Mitas Mana Waka tomorrow.

Mitas film follows Princess Te Puea Herangis travels in 1937 as she attempted to bring together Maori tribes and pakeha settlers in 1940 to commemorate the signing the Treaty of Waitangi.

In the late 1930s Waikato leader Te Puea Herangi held a dream to build seven waka taua for the 1940 centennial commemorations at Waitangi. By 1937 two waka had been commissioned and cameraman RGH Manley engaged to record their building for posterity.

The original footage was not printed and remained untouched for almost 50 years until 1983 when the Film Archive received permission from Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangik?hu, to begin work on the nitrate negatives. Repair and preservation took more than 350 hours and several years and in August 1989 work began to construct a new film. Merata Mita was appointed director and, with editor Annie Collins and Archive director Jonathan Dennis, moved to Turangawaewae Marae to edit a new film.

Mita was informed by kaumatua who had witnessed the events and could provide clarity and guidance to shaping the film. The result of this collaboration is this wonderous feature documentary which premiered at the closing event of the Commonwealth Games Arts Festival at the Civic Theatre in 1990.

As Jonathan Dennis said then, Mana Waka under the direction of Merata Mita becomes the great gift envisaged by Te Puea Herangi. Mana Waka is a powerful, beautiful and intensely aspiring film, a monument to hope.

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