A Waka Odyssey

A Creative Odyssey

29 November 2017

When a call is put to the community you can never predict how your ask will be met. Two weeks ago we were lucky enough to have a big-hearted, generous and courageous group of people answer our call to come together and create content to share in the exciting lead up to the 2018 New Zealand Festival's epic A Waka Odyssey.

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A Waka Odyssey Content Sprint 1 (c) Double Denim

Image: Vanessa Rushton

The Content Creation Sprint was part of A Waka Odyssey, the New Zealand Festival’s week-long celebration of our voyaging past and Pacific future. 

Inspired by the teams of people who will come together from around Aotearoa and the Pacific to Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington Harbour for the New Zealand Festival's epic celebration A Waka Odyssey, we invited the public to first come on board a digital waka journey. Held in November 2017, and working with our agency Double Denim, the aim of this 'Content Creation Sprint' was to translate and communicate the physical and emotional journey these real-life ocean-sailing waka will make to get here. And to do this in ways that are engaging and full of heart for a digitally-connected online audience. 

Given the kaupapa we didn’t feel it was right to dictate what this content would be - we needed to create a framework that could include as many voices and perspectives as possible. Waka are vessels for ideas, arts and culture, as well as a mode of exploration and survival. As project co-creator Anna Marbrook says “when the waka travel, they're like these magnets for artists. They activate the arts, everywhere they go. Artists are drawn to them. They're places of art, they attract filmmakers... carvers... storytellers... people fascinated with history and whakapapa."

A Waka Odyssey Content Sprint 2 (c) Double Denim

Ideas were flowing at the A Waka Odyssey Content Sprint held at Credenza in Wellington.

Image: Vanessa Rushton

In this spirit, we put the call out for participants in an experiment. Taking inspiration from a business sprint or hackathon, mixed with the idea of a 48 Hour Film Festival, we asked people to join us for a fast-paced and inspiration-charged environment over one full weekend. The opportunity was for individuals and teams to come together to create content that will educate the public about our nation’s first settlers, showcasing the incredibly rich voyaging culture in the Pacific as well as in New Zealand.

Participants had the opportunity to hear from voyagers Raihania Tipoki, Tabai McGregor-Burt, Dale-Maree Morgan and Moana Swan who spoke of their experiences voyaging the Pacific with celestial navigators and waka craftspeople. Sharing this mahi and opening a conversation about their experiences was highly motivating and inspirational for the participants. They then selected themes such as celestial navigation, voyaging, science, environment, sustainability, history, home and belonging, and formed groups aligned to these common interests. 

A full day on Saturday produced the bulk of the content from the four teams who worked into the night. Their talents ranged from illustration, animation, copywriting, user experience design, to videography and textile design. A videographer was on hand to capture their vision and Sunday morning was spent editing the works which included stop motion, spoken word poetry and timelapse capture. Throughout the weekend the mentors worked with the teams to guide their practice and share their expertise.

A Waka Odyssey Content Sprint 3 (c) Double Denim

Creatives worked in small groups as though they had known each other for far more than a few hours.

Image: Vanessa Rushton

The final presentations at the end of the Sprint were an emotional display of what happens when the arts collide with a Pacific world view. Our directors were moved to tears when seeing the results. Kasia Pol one of the creators of A Waka Odyssey who was in attendance was overwhelmed by the commitment and quality of work produced.  

Matt Ritani, one of the participants commented on the importance of manaakitanga when bringing together a group of people for the first time. “There is something really collegial and community focussed on sharing kai, stories etc that really contributed to the outputs.” The kaupapa Māori creative process used within teams motivated people to “learn deeply, and be able to make very present and genuine connections with people quickly.” 

Another participant Georgie Johnson said, “I'd be really interested in taking part in more workshops like this, it is a great way to work with current issues around accurate representation of indigenous peoples and their ideologies in a modern context. Collaboration like this is key to respecting traditions/ histories and narratives.”

The finished pieces of content will be released over the New Zealand Festival’s social channels in February, timed to coincide with the journey of the waka from around New Zealand to reach Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington Harbour for the epic Kupe: Festival Opening Night on Friday, 23 February 2018. This theatrical extravaganza sparks a week-long celebration of our place in the Pacific, including Kupe Landing: Petone Family Daya fun beach party for all the whānau, and the Kupe Dreaming series of waka-themed community events and activities. 

Haere Mai - Come on Board. Sign up now for A Waka Odyssey updates and follow the journey on Facebook.

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