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Ngāti Kuia precious whakapapa and vision immortalised in film project

The history, mahi, and relationships of Ngāti Kuia have been captured on film as part of a major documentary project assisted by funding from the Rātā Foundation. 

Ngāti Kuia is the original tangata whenua of Motueka (today the site of the small town of Havelock), where the Kaituna and Awanui Rivers merge into the Te Hoiere Pelorus Sound.  Te Hoiere is one of the breathtaking and globally renowned Marlborough Sounds, nestled at the top of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Te Wai Pounamu (South Island).   

Over the years, local iwi and hapu have developed a close relationship with Rātā, says Ngāti Kuia General Manager David Johnston. The foundation recently helped the iwi complete a mighty Ngāti Kuia waka – a project that David describes as enabling  whānau “to reconnect on our waka of old.”

The waka named Te Hoiere will also feature in a new documentary film series – the next step in capturing the rich history and Te Tiriti o Waitangi journey of local iwi, as well as highlighting current achievements by Ngāti Kuia, its economic and social strategy, and the strong relationships iwi have built.

“We’re recording some of our oral and historical knowledge, but also looking at some of the wonderful things that Ngāti Kuia are doing to help sustain and support not only the Iwi, but also the outreach and work they do with others,” says David.

David says that many Ngāti Kuia live outside of Te Tauihu (the Marlborough and Nelson-Tasman region that encompasses the top of the South Island), making this project even more important. 

“For them to come home, they need somewhere to live and jobs,” says David. “Part of this documentary, and through the support from Rātā, we needed to be able to provide inspiration. A set of stories to help whānau to be able to realise their potential in coming home.”

With over 60 hours of camera footage captured over a six-month period, the documentary project has bought Ngāti Kuia experts together from across the region. 

It includes promoting our use of te reo me ōna tikanga (language and local iwi cultural knowledge), our Ngāti Kuiatānga, and are able to share it with whānau both here and afar,” says David.

Rātā Foundation Chief Executive, Leighton Evans, says it’s been a humbling experience to help bring Ngāti Kuia people together, including tikanga and mātauranga experts, to capture and share knowledge and experience for future generations.

“Ngāti Kuia has a strong focus on the wellbeing of whānau, hapū, and iwi,” says Leighton. “By supporting David and his team, we really hope this initiative will help connect mana whenua and build a strong sense of self-identify and belonging.” 

“We’ve been able to take a snapshot of time in terms of the many things that are happening, and it’s wonderful.  Equally, it’s also very sad that even though you’ve got these fantastic resources since filming, many of our kaumātua have passed,” says David.   

“To capture their voices and stories to help us guide into the future has been absolutely wonderful.”