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Whetū Marama – Bright Star screens to mark Matariki Day

Tuesday 18 July 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Features, National


Whetū Marama – Bright Star screens to mark Matariki Day
At the screening of Whetū Marama - Bright Star. From left: Byron Brown, Ian Karika, Aotearoa New Zealand film director - Te Arepa Kahi, Master Carver - Mike Tavioni, and Tiana Haxton. MELINA ETCHES/23071603

In honour of Matariki Day and the inaugural visit by the Aotearoa New Zealand Minister of Māori Development, Willie Jackson, the High Commission of New Zealand hosted a reception and screening of Whetū Marama - Bright Star, over the weekend.

Whetū Mārama-Bright Star tells the story of Sir Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Puhipi, also known as Hek Busby, and his significance to Te Ao Māori in rekindling and reclaiming the lost art of traditional Māori voyaging by the stars.

Busby sailed the vast Pacific using the rediscovery of traditional knowledge navigating by the stars.

The film is directed and produced by Toby Mills and Aileen O'Sullivan who spent 15 years developing the documentary alongside Busby, who died in 2019.

Mills attended the screening at the Empire Theatre, he said the film is “a reconnection of us being together as celestial navigators canoe builders…”

Ben Ponia, Pa Marie Ariki, Ake Lewis and Chamber of Commerce chief executive Rebecca Tavioni. MELINA ETCHES/23071605

“Polynesian voyagers are amazing how they’ve reconnected us all now we know now that we are sailing in the footpaths of our ancestors, there is some real power for our tamariki for our young ones to have a real solid foundation in their identity and know who they are and where they come from,” said Mills.

Aotearoa New Zealand High Commissioner Tui Dewes welcomed guests to the screening which was selected to be the centrepiece of the Matariki Korikori film festival “highlighting and strengthening our Māori to Māori ties”.

Matariki is a time for remembering those who have passed on, celebrating the present and looking to the future, is the Māori name for a cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades.

New Zealand High Commissioner Tui Dewes and Aotearoa New Zealand Film Director - Toby Mills. MELINA ETCHES/23071606

Aotearoa officially marked Matariki as a public holiday for the second time this year.

Jackson engaged effortlessly with his improvised and humorous banter which had the audience in fits of laughter.

Pius Mau Piailug, (1932-2010)master navigator from Satawal, Yap State, taught Aotearoa, Hawaiians, Cook Islanders and other Polynesians the arts of navigating without instruments features in the film, alongside Nainoa Thompson, Pwo Navigator and CEO of Polynesian Voyaging Society, as well as the Cook Islands master navigator Peia Patai.