On Wednesday 14th February 2018 Ngā Aho Whakaari welcomed Annabelle Sheehan, the new CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission at Ngā Wai o Horotiu.
The Hui was attended by Rangatira from Whakaata Māori, Te Mangai Paho, Nga Taonga, Te Puna Ataata, Te Whakaruruha etc
Christina Asher, NAW Chair, gave the following speech presenting our kaupapa:

  • Mihi:  E ngā rau rangatira mā i huihui mai nei tēnā koutou tēnā koutou tēnā toutou katoa. Kia koe e te rangatira Annabelle nau mai haere mai ki raro i te maru o Ngā Aho Whakaari.
  • Presentation of Korowai to Annabelle
      • This korowai has huge significance for us of Ngā Aho Whakaari.  It was created for film Te Rua. Worn by Whetu (a former Chair) She is the guardian of this garment that was gifted to us by John O’Shea. He produced Te Rua. He is regarded as the Godfather of modern NZ film and a founder of NZFC.
      • We acknowledge John O’Shea for his support of Māori telling our stories in film.  
      • The film Te Rua has at the core the theme of misappropriation of Māori taonga or treasures. The film brought together Māori activists who  also established Ngā Aho Whakaari.
      • We place this on your shoulders so that you can feel the weight of it, what it means, as well as the warmth and protection it provides.
  • Who Is Ngā Aho Whakaari?
      • That weight represents every Māori in the NZ screen industry. Be it in television, video, digital and gaming and of course film, there are nearly a thousand Māori working in many roles in the industry, representing 10% of total workers.
      • Ngā Aho Whakaari means the many strands which bind this disparate, talented and opinionated group together.   
      • Our proverb is “E kore te Tōtara e tū noa i te pārae, engari me tū i te wao.”  “The Tōtara does not stand lonely on the plain, but stands united in the forest.”
      • This proverb urges our members and supporters to work in unity for the betterment of our people, our language, our customs and prestige. And importantly our stories. Because without all this who are we?
      • The Colonists have tried to assimilate us just as they did your friends the indigenous people of Te Pāpaka-a-maui. Australia. Assimilation was not for us because we are a fighting people.
      • “We Māori stand up for our rights – descendants of warriors who commit ourselves to the advancement of our people.” Māori have long fought for the recognition and implementation of the Treaty of Waitangi. It is now the foundation document of New Zealand Law.  
      • We agitated for Māori language to be recognised for the taonga that it is, as an official language of this country. Now Te Reo Māori is learned from preschool level to tertiary. We have 21 tribal radio stations, we agitated for television news in Māori – today Te Karere is 36 years old. We demanded our own television channel and Māori Television turns 14 this year.
      • Today in this whare we are supported by many people who were present at the coal face of this struggle including organisations we  have been involved in establishing. Such as the Te Māngai Pāho, Māori Television, Te Whakarūrū Hau – the Iwi Radio Networks, and Te Maataawai. Like these organisations, we work and are closely interconnected to our tribes, our hapū and our whānau. Our aims and goals are intertwined closely with all our people who work as we do to nurture and encourage our language, our culture and our customs through our creative works.
      • We walked the length of Te Ika a Maui to demand justice and an end to land grabbing by Pakeha. We chopped down flag poles when Pakeha Governors first arrived here and in recent times people amongst us have not only burned the flag but also shot it dead. Fortunately for us someone had the good sense to film that action and make it part of a prize winning documentary.
      • Now I’d like to introduce you to some of those agitators of our industry.
      • VIDEO: Here is a brief video featuring some of our pioneer Māori film-makers. Their drive, passion and messages are the legacy that we of Ngā Aho Whakaari work to continue.

Rangatira Pioneers of Māori Rights & Screen:

      • I’m glad to say that after seeing this viewed at our own industry awards, Dave and your team at the commission, created something similar for last years Big Screen Symposium.

Ad Libbed -I often wonder what our bossy old mates would say if they were still with us today. No doubt one of the things they would say is “Why isn’t a Māori the head of te tumu whakaata taonga? What’s taking you kids so long?” Hei aha Annabelle we know that’ you will consider this in the future.

So what else do we do?

      • You know that we work with the other screen industry guilds, WIFT NZ, Directors & Editors Guild, Writers Guild, Actors Equity, Script to screen and other related screen and broadcasting bodies to assist in achieving our vision. We also maintain ties with our Indigenous brothers and sisters throughout the world. Especially Imaginenative and the Aboriginal screen industry. Thank you for assisting us to attend WINDA.
      • We have a rich and unique Māori screen history from Ramai Hayward to Taika Waititi. We can be proud of the fact that of this country’s top 10 grossing films of all time, six are Māori or have a Māori theme. We know that as only 15% of the population, we punch well above our weight.  
    • But and it’s a big BUT
    • The NZ Film Commission & Ngā Aho Whakaari with Māori film makers, have had a long and colourful if not an always easy history.
        • While Māori films are a standout success for the NZ Film Industry , Māori film makers themselves still feel marginalised and ignored.
        • We try to fit into compartmentalised constraints that tick boxes not of our making, for concepts not of our thinking, to produce films that tell our stories in our way.
        • Until very recently there was only one Māori on staff in your building and in their role they were expected to represent an entire population and culture of thousands of years!  
        • This isn’t so much a complaint but a reminder that we are not a guild as such and we do not wait cap in hand, we ask and we work and we demand. As our ancestor the great fighting chief and renown pacifist Titokowaru stated “E kore ahau e ngaro. He kakano i ruia mai i Rangiatea.”  “I am of the seed broadcast from Rangiatea and though I may be insignificant I have shaken the foundation of the Earth.” So here we are after 20 years of agitation as Ngā Aho Whakaari and many years prior to that as Te Manu Aute, we have shaken this earth and at last we can feel the winds of change.
        • In the last year we’ve seen efforts by your staff to right the wrongs that have existed for too long.
        • Until recently Merata Mita was the only Māori woman to direct a feature film with the assistance of the FC and now we have the women of Waru to celebrate.
        • Raymai Hayward Scholarship is an indication that there is a deeper understanding of our needs.
        • But we not only want changes we want a real say in going forward together. We know our industry, we know our people, we know our culture, we know our language and our history. We know how we tell stories. We don’t need others to reinterpret what is “good for us”
        • After 20 plus years we know that you are listening and we have arrived at a point where we together can develop a Tangata Whenua Film Strategy. We are excited by the promise of a True partnership.
  • Expectations:  
    • Ngā Aho Whakaari welcomes you Annabelle Sheehan. We have heard of your work particularly your support of South Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander filmmakers. We know why you have been brought to us.
    • So Annabelle we placed this korowai on your shoulders for only a short time so that you can feel the significance of all that your role as Tumuaki of Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga, means to us Māori. You have felt the weight of it and now we can tell you that every organisation in this whare is here to help you carry that weight on behalf of our people.
    • At the end of this ceremony the korowai will be raised from your shoulders to signify that you accept our tautoko or support.
    • You have been deemed the ideal person to carry the mantle of the agency.
    • Our kōrero to you is “let us work together.”  Remember our proverb “ E kore te totara e tū noa i te pārae, engari me tū i te wao”  “The Tōtara does not stand lonely on the plain, but stands united  in the forest.”
  • Mihi mutunga:  No reira kaore e kūmea roa taku kōrero . Kua takoto ahau i te manuka inaianei, e tatari ana mātou mōu ki te hiki ake. The challenge has been laid and we await to see how you meet our challenge. No reira e te tuahine/tuakana (kei a koe). Nau mai haere mai ki te ao pāpāho o Aotearoa.

It was lovely to meet Annabelle and hear her supportive korero & experiences with Māori (Cliff Curtis etc), South Australian Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander filmmakers.

These occasions would never work out if it were not for the support of some of staunchest supporters; Ella Henry former Chair & AUT Lecturer, Larry Parr CE of Te Mangai Paho, MTS Board Members Whetu & Maru Nihoniho, Producer Bailey Mackey, CEO of Whakaata Maori Keith Ikin. Te Whakaruruhau were represented by the Chair, Rawiri Waru, Deputy Chair, Peter Lucas-Jones and Ebony Duff, General Manager. Other creatives from the industry were also present to tautoko, including legendary actor Zac Wallace and his wife Diedre and of course those Producers, Directors, Presenters, Writers who are members of Ngā Aho Whakaari (Hineani Melbourne, Paula Jones, Karen Waaka, Karen Sidney, Hanelle Harris,  Tamalene Painting etc).