Artist interview: Zak Waipara, filmmaker He uiui ringatoi: Zak Waipara, ringakiriata

Zak Waipara created the animated film Tiwha, Tiwha Te PōDark, Dark is the Night for our latest iwi exhibition, Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow.

What does being Rongowhakaata mean to you?

Being Rongowhakaata means I belong to the Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa rohe

  rohearea, districtMāori | Noun
, it gives me my tribal identity connecting me to an immense whānau

  whānaufamilyMāori | Noun
. It tells me who I am and where I am from. This sense of belonging is the ground I stand upon as Māori.

How does this inform and/or inspire you creatively?

I know that the Rongowhakaata artists were famed for their skill and creativity. I feel inspired by my artistic forebears and I owe a debt to them. Additionally, I feel compelled to do my best artistically to live up to the high standards they have set. I would like to be able to tell the stories of my people through my craft.



Zak Waipara, 2017. Photograph by Daniel Crichton-Rouse. Te Papa

Tell us about your work for the exhibition...

I was asked to create a two-minute animated narrative piece depicting the first meeting between Cook and the Rongowhakaata people. The short timeframe means that in this sense it is an artistic impression of the calamitous first encounter, rather than a non-fiction documentary piece.

Taking inspiration from the larger exhibition, I have used light and shadow (and distinct colour palettes) to help set apart the different scenes and time periods being covered. As a way to make the digital feel more handmade, I integrated textural elements to evoke a tactile response to the work.

It was shocking to learn how many lives were lost so casually.

Is there something that you always carry with you?

My surname, Waipara, which I carry, commemorates a significant event from our past. After an attack, our tupuna had to gather the remains of the deceased, and clean them. Our family name comes from this historical act.

How do you interpret ‘ruku i te pō, ruku i te ao’?

I see the phrase as making reference to the primal states of creation from pūrākau Māoripūrākau Māori cosmogonic stories, te pō

  te pōthe darkMāori | noun
, and te ao, which can themselves be used as metaphors for the creative states artists must work through.

To me it also brings to mind famed Rongowhakaata chief and artist, Raharuhi Rukupō.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

It is a real privilege to be asked to contribute to and represent Rongowhakaata via this exhibition.

Watch Tiwha, Tiwha Te Pō | Dark, Dark is the Night:

See more of Zak’s work