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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]

Working in a World of Dreams

Working in a World of Dreams

Here Michael King, the research man and script writer, tells about the treatment of the six hour-long programmes and the making of the first one.

We were outside a cottage on the shore of Aotea Harbour. Our contact man, Dave Manihera, was inside with the old woman Nohinohi. She was tattooed and spoke no English. The crew and I were waiting for her final decision about taking part in the filming of 'The Spirits and Times Will Teach'.

Dave, shaking his head, waded back through the grass from the cottage. "No," he said, "she's changed her mind. She's had a dream."

Dreams, They were the making or unmaking of us. More than any other factor they persuaded or discouraged people from working with us.

"She likes to spend her days more with the spirits than the living," Dave told us. "Last night she dreamed that Mahuta (the third Maori King) was here. As she walked towards him, a tatooed man threw a barbed spear that stood up in the ground in front of her. It was a challenge.

"Are you going to sell your people?" Mahuta asked her. "After your people, what then?"

"You see she regards her moko as her mauri, her life force. It surrounds her and belongs to her and the ancestors who gave it to her.

"You tell your pakeha friends," she said, "that when my time comes I want to go home with my moko unseen and my voice unheard. No one will take them from me. No one will diminish my aura."

"Dreams always tell you something," Dave said. 'They carry a message from somebody of somewhere. You don't ignore them."

So we became accustomed to working in a world of dreams, omens and premonitions.

For the remainder of "The Spirits" film we were blessed. Tom Porter, son of the last tohunga to tattoo, was instructed in dreams to help us. Eva Rickard of Raglan dreamed well of us and as a result her whole family agreed to let us live, eat, sleep with them in the intimate relationship essential for the making of a good documentary.

Most important, Eva's dream brought her tattooed kuia, Herepo Rongo, into the project. And the old lady's role quickly increased to that of main participant.

Through these people we explored the role of an old person in a rural Maori community - her view of life; her past and the ways the comunity relates to her, Moko, or tattoes, in the film became a symbol of an older pattern of life that was changing but not disappearing.

Tangata Whenua gives an impression of a distinctive set of life patterns foreign to most New Zealaners - foreign but affecting: Herepo Rongo leading her people to restore a desecrated grave; the same womar crying over Raglan Harbour to her ancestors and dead children; Waikato people marching on to a marae with their Queen for a demonstration of loyalty and solidarity; members of the Ringatu faith praying through their 19th century ritual composed in exile; John Rangihau of Tuhoe affirming what makes him Maori.

In most places tribal identity was more potent than Maori identity. The more we heard people talk about differences in history, etiquette and values the more difficult it became to claim things for Maoridom as some kind of mythical whole.

For the core of the crew who filmed Tangata Whenua - Barry Barclay, cameramen Keith Hawke. Rory O'Shea and Michael Hardcastle, soundman Craig McLeod, and myself - it was an experience unlike any other.

Immensely rewarding things happened to us and frightening, inexplicable ones: lights toppled and broke for no apparent reason; fires ignited on location. On one occasion we had to put all our gear through a tapu removal process. We were persistently reminded that the things we were doing were not to be taken lightly.

It is no exaggeration to say that our lives will never be quite the same. And I have learnt to be attentive to my dreams.