National | Aotearoa

Waka Huia stands strong 30 years on

For thirty years Waka Huia has been capturing, promoting and preserving the most prized and personal stories from within Māori communities on the silver screen, and after thousands of episodes, it is still going strong.

Waka Huia were used to store the most prized possessions, and for three decades the show of the same name has been doing so with Māori stories.

Director Mana Epiha says "While we started documenting Māori stories 30-years ago through this platform, the stories come from many many years before. That's the real purpose and importance of Waka Huia."

Epiha has ten years of directing Waka Huia under his belt. He says although the show has evolved visually the subject matter and integrity of the show has remained.

“Back then I believe it was easier to do because there was more budget and more time [to film] with the main focus being the collection of knowledge, but today there is less money and budget. That could be a reflection of the times.”

He says capturing the stories together with elders is an honour and the biggest education opportunity because they are a window to the past.

"There is no better place than Waka Huia that allows me to learn what I learn while making documentaries. I get to travel all over the country and speak with the real old, grassroots people. The humble folk from all corners who I sometimes have to seek out because they hide.”

He says Sir Hēmi Henare was the first to be interviewed and by doing so he opened the door for other elders to share their stories. Epiha recalls a proverb Sir Hēmi shared with him he believes speaks to the purpose of the show.

"The memories of our ancestors will never perish. They traversed the sea and earth to get here. Their footsteps remain and they enclave the earth. They are sacred and are very much a treasure.”