A Waka Odyssey

Meet the Creative Team

18 October 2017

The 2018 New Zealand Festival’s spectacular celebration A Waka Odyssey has been years in the making. And it all stems from the dedication and vision of its three co-creators, Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, Anna Marbrook and Kasia Pol.

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Anna Marbrook NZF2018 (c) Mamea

Before the fleet of waka set off on their epic voyage from the Pacific and around Aotearoa to Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington Harbour, we want to take a moment to introduce you to the creatives behind this landmark journey. They span many cultures, but share a drive and passion to convey the story, history and art of waka voyaging and its important place within Pacific cultures.

Anna Marbrook
A Waka Odyssey

Anna Marbrook has a career spanning over 25 years as a director in theatre, film, television and community projects.

In 2015 she created and directed a ten-part television series for Māori Television called Waka Warriors. It follows the transformation of three rangatahi (youth) as they circumnavigate Aotearoa on waka hourua (traditional double-hulled sailing canoes), to vie for a place sailing the South Pacific to the Cook Islands. Anna directed the feature-length documentary Te Mana o te Moana: The Pacific Voyagers, which traces the two-year voyage of seven ocean-going waka from Aotearoa to America and back across the Pacific to the Solomon Islands. It is currently premiering across the Pacific and had its first screening on Māori Television.

In drama, Anna has directed over 100 episodes of Shortland Street for South Pacific Pictures, and directed four half-hour dramas for Māori Television under the umbrella of Table Plays, an initiative to develop new writers in provincial areas using a multicam/ vision-switching approach. Anna also created and series directed two seasons of Real Pasifik for TVNZ – a show that revives, shares and celebrates Pacific food culture and the power of connecting tourism, food and the economy.

Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr NZF 2018 (c) Ricky-Lee Russell

Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr
A Waka Odyssey
Navigator and Waka Expert, and Kaitiaki of Haunui

Hoturoa is equal parts adventurer, teacher, artist and kaumātua.

Among voyagers, he is among the elite, having been committed to tikanga waka (waka customs) for over 30 years. Hoturoa has been involved in waka kaupapa  (Māori waka customary practice) since he was a small boy on the banks of the Waikato River with his Tainui kaumātua. In the early 1980s he travelled to Hawai‘i to take the opportunity of learning with the masters of canoe sailing, such as Mau Paialug, Nainoa Thompson, Shorty Bertelman, Clay Bertelman and others on the world famous Hōkūleʻa.

Since then Hoturoa has dedicated his life to sharing and practising waka arts across the Pacific. He has worked with Hector Busby in the initial Pacific voyages of his waka, Te Aurere, and together with Stanley Conrad ran numerous rangatahi wānanga (youth education) throughout the 1990s. He also initiated cultural exchange programmes between rangatahi (youth) of Aotearoa and Hawai‘i between 2000 and 2003 on the Hawaiian sailing canoe, Makaliʻi.

Haunui waka was the first waka hourua (traditional double-hulled sailing canoe) to sail the South Island in 800 years, sharing the knowledge and traditions of the seafaring ancestors of Māori. Hoturoa recognises that sailing the waka to these places is an opportunity to rediscover the Pacific identity of our traditions, our people and our artforms as well as the innovations that have taken place since.

Waka don’t just connect islands, they connect people. A waka is like a needle, and the different lands to which it travels are like flowers that have their own fragrance and beauty. The waka is the needle that threads these flowers together.

Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr

Kasia Pol NZF 2018 (c) no credit

Kasia Pol

Kasia Pol
A Waka Odyssey
  Production and costume designer 

Polish-born Kasia Pol is a performance artist and designer who has based herself in New Zealand over the last 10 years while working with various theatre, dance and film companies to create installations and performances in New Zealand as well as Germany, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Poland. 

In 2014, in collaboration with Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, Kasia developed the interdisciplinary project Ara-Moana – Sea Path for the Zooming Festival in Rijeka, Croatia. The concept and aim of Ara-Moana was to present and share Pacific oceanic stories and cultural elements for a global festival audience through an interweaving of performance, installation, moving image and storytelling.

Through her interdisciplinary arts practice, she has developed a strong and unique visual language, working across the varying fields of theatre, performance, visual art and film. Her work explores and creates significant communal and participatory events that utilise performance, space and new media to urgently comment on and actively engage with the audience in dynamic dialogue.

Now you know the team, you can look forward to their once-in-a-lifetime celebration of our voyaging past and our place in the Pacific today. Sign up for A Waka Odyssey updates and be part of the journey.