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No. 13 (December 1955)
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The film of
RUATOKI

At the verandah corner, quite alone, was the infant mistress. She was not looking at us, she was waiting for her children who were running towards her from the school garden, twigs with green leaves waving above their heads. They ran up the steps, a little out of breath, and crowded round to be the first to hand the mistress their own twig. Soon she had them all, a big bundle, held against her with both arms. And the children were happy.

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The camerman's equipment caused a good deal of curiosity at Tauarau Pa, Ruatoki.

This is what they call ‘activity training’ and as part of the ‘modern education’, all infant mistresses do it, or something like it, even in the distant backblocks of Ruatoki (the Ruatoki Maori District High School) where we were. First it is leaves the children are taught to gather together; later it will be knowledge.

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Principal actor was Rev. Wharetini Rangi, the Anglican Pastor at Ruatoki. After only one afternoon's practice, he very convincingly played the part of a chief telling his people the importance of education in a modern age. The film men thought he had a great screen personality. He gained a pretty good idea of film acting and was sorry his cinema career had not started a little earlier in life.

In their concern with the leaves the children hardly noticed the unusual and very prominent invasion the school was suffering. There was not only Te Ao Hou visiting the school but also the Pacific Film Company, to make a film about Maori education; that meant that Wellington characters were strolling all over the lawns, a camera man shooting one of the Maori mistresses and her class on one end of the school grounds while a photographer was at work in the third form mathematics class. Another strange identity was

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The film shows a crowd gathered on the marae at Tauarau and the camera, after moving through the people, finally comes to rest on these three prominent Ruatoki women.

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In one passage, shot at Rewarewa Pa, Ruatoki, the film shows a tribal gathering discussing education inside the meeting house at night.

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looking at the little children on the playground who were organized around some skipping ropes.

The lovely lawns and the rose garden, the mountain ranges in the background, the friendly look of the school were just what the film men were looking for. So they shot quite a number of scenes there; such as the pretty Maori school mistress talking to one of the parents, telling her that her daughter had made no progress at school because she had been kept home too often. After they finished talking the mother walked back to her car; the school mistress back to the school with always that lovely background of hills, lawn, roses. And they repeated it, and repeated it again, to get it just right, and for almost an hour you saw the mother walking in one, and the mistress in another direction on the school grounds.

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LEFT TOP: Most of Ruatoki's new homes are built by Mr Jack Hayes. As a building contractor, he also takes on jobs in the Whakatane Borough, but finds building faster under the labour contracts of the Department of Maori Affairs which is responsible for most of the building in Ruatoki. Under the department, he says, there is no danger of houses not being completed through lack of materials. In his experience, delay in Maori house construction is due to lack of labour. Unskilled men are available, but the standard of their work is not high enough. Mr Hayes began his building career as a working foreman of a departmental building gang.

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LEFT: Mr Waaka Rahi, the secretary of the Mahurehure tribal committee, is keenly interested in the beautiful new dining hall now being built at Rewarewa Pa (shown BELOW). This hall, on the only Ruatoki marae connected to electric power, will be an important social centre in the future. Even at its present cost of £6,000 it could not have been built but for the voluntary work by the farmers of the community. The little platform in front represents the remains of the little hall that was there before. It dated from 1929 and was in memory of the soldiers of the first world war; the new hall, with the Anzac emblem on the roof, commemorates both wars.

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Ruatoki farmers have always believed in pig breeding and pig clubs and one elder, Mr Hohapata Heremia, has been particularly active in encouraging younger farmers to breed pigs. Frederic Iopata (BELOW) has shown his Birkdale boars, sows and offspring at Galatea. Rotorua, Tauranga. Te Puke and Whakatane in 1953 and again at Whakatane in 1954, when he entered one champion, one reserve champion, four firsts and two seconds. RIGHT: Mr Iopata's champion Birkdale boar.

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Leading Piggery. Mr Frederic (Miki) Iopata has in two years won thirty trophies with his Birkdale pedigree pigs. One of his boars was judged Champion in Whakatane in 1954.

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It is only four years ago since Mr Iopata, a returned serviceman, took over his father's 87 acre farm. He at once began to develop his piggery as a sideline without any outside help.

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His well-kept farm maintains 50 cows, innumerable ducks and fowls, grew enough maize last year to fill 300 bags valued at £2 each, and as a survival of ancient days, Mr Iopata has a genuine traditional Maori kumera pit (PHOTOS ON RIGHT). The top is narrow but the floor is far larger and the kumaras stored at the bottom of the pit, the last remains of the previous harvest were still excellent after a year. Mr Iopata saw similar pits in Italy to store wine. A new home is being built for him by the government at the present time.

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Apart from looking after her five children all of school age, Mrs Iopata is a very important person to all the farm animals.

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One of the great chiefs of the early years of the century was Renata te Ua Numea Kereru, one of the paramount chiefs of Tuhoe and the paramount chief of Ngati Rongo. It was in his day and to a great extent due to his influence that farming started in Ruatoki, that the people took an interest in the cheese factory and in the school all established after 1900.

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Science is taught in the secondary department of the Ruatoki Maori District High School to fit students for the School Certificate examination.

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Tom Te Whetu has lost interest in many of his former worldly activities. We came to ask him about the new hall at Ngahina Pa. Tongaokioki which had been opened recently. He had been one of the principal helpers and told us the amusing story of many years of building effort and trouble with the building controller. But soon he asked us what we thought of the drink problem; he told us that to him nothing was of real importance now except religion and that no solution of human problems was possible except by submission to the divine.

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For the younger ones the play activities that are part of the school curriculum are particularly important as they learn to work together in an organized way.

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Kakatarahae, the flat hill in the background, was once occupied by Ueimua, Tuhoe's elder brother, but after the famous battle in which Ueimua was killed and Tuhoe ate his heart, Kakatarahae became Tuhoe's pa and the birthplace of the Tuhoe tribe.

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K. Tumoana, settler on the new development scheme, who is also an authority on the history of the area and pointed out to us, with reference to Elsdon Best's map, where Kakatarahae is and where Te Putiki, Tuhoe's previous pa was.

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Owhakatoro, the settlement at the foot of Kakatarahae, is part of a Maori development scheme. Four dairy farmers have recently been settled on it and the photo below shows the milking shed of one of them, Mr K. Tumoana.

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People wondered what this invasion was aiming at; what kind of film was this? Did we come to make money? We tried to explain: it is a film to show the Maoris' search for knowledge in the modern world; the people and the leaders realise the need for education, but it is not easy for the children to learn the knowledge of what is still partly a strange culture, and it is not easy for the parents to give their children all the support they need; and the Maori people are very conscious of this and very keen that their children should learn, but not always quite sure how it should be done. But many have succeeded in becoming educated and they now take part in all the complicated activities that make up a modern world. We wanted to tell that whole story in a film, to show it to people in a clear visual form. The Maori Purposes Fund is paying for it, we said and no one will make money.

We tried to explain that to the people of Ruatoki while we were making the film and Miss Ann Delamere came with us and explained it to the old people in the Maori language, and I think that many understood what we were trying to do.

Why did we choose Ruatoki, it was asked? There was no very special reason; both the school and the valley were suitable for a film. We knew that there were people at Ruatoki who would make good actors; and Ruatoki with over 1000 Maoris in a compact area has retained a particularly strong Maori character. There were other places that would have done as well, but in Ruatoki you could see the old way of life and you could see the middle aged and the young men who are gradually giving Ruatoki a more modern outlook but still essentiall a Maori outlook. We met the men who run the only Maori-managed and completely Maori-staffed cheese factory; we met the man who started pigfarming four years ago when his father died and who has now won more prizes and trophies with his pigs than he or we could count; we met the Maori contractor who is building new homes in Ruatoki, and we met the various chiefs and saw how one acts as champion for his people among the pakehas, while another, working hard on his farm is organizing the building of a large dining hall; another again, although he has helped with the newly opened hall on his marae, has lately become very religious and has partly withdrawn from the activities of worldly leadership.

Te Ao Hou met these men and is presenting their pictures on these pages. They were all very willing to do their part in telling the story of the Maori search for knowledge, act in the film and make the facilities of their maraes available. When it came to the actual shooting, many were critical. A whole evening was spent with sound apparatus taking a few unconnected sentences spoken inside a meeting house while the camera moved backwards and forwards and the sound mechanic took and retook his sound sequences. A local chief commented (in Maori) that never had so much nonsense been spoken on his marae. True, it sounded like that; for in a film you may have three passages playing in exactly the same meeting house, but one occurs in the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end of a film. It is convenient to take the three passages at the same time and to the actors there seems little sense in it, but when the whole film is put together it looks very reasonable.

Let us hope that it will be so with the film on Maori education—THE WILL TO LEARN—for it is intended to send this film everywhere in the Maori world so that it can be seen and discussed and so that as a result of the film's message and the discussions it may become easier for the children of this generation to learn and to understand the world of today. So it comes back again to the first thing we saw when we entered the school grounds at Ruatoki, the children innocently running about and gathering leaves, while their elders are preparing them to learn, later, all the difficult skills and reasonings of modern man.

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Much of the film was shot at the Ruatoki District High School.