Covered in masks, challenged to maintain the physical distance, Mike, Aroha, and I (Yana) met at the Orangahina Harbourview Park last week. We came for the interview as our project M2M Te Atatū got shortlisted for The Kūmara Award. And that was already a pleasant surprise. Little did we know that surprises would keep on coming that day. Once the interview was over we were told that ….drumroll…..we won The Kūmara Award 2021. YAHOOOOO!!!!!!
We had to keep this news a secret for a few days, but it wasn’t the hardest thing to do. The key challenge for a hugger like me was to express joy and gratitude with the team without sharing an actual hug with them. And that socially distanced “yay, we won!” moment turned out to be quite awkward. Don’t believe me? See it for yourself on my Instagram.
Awkwardness aside, together with Mike from He Oranga Poutama ki Tāmaki Makaurau, Aroha from Community Waitakere we are super grateful for that award and public recognition. I hope that this award will take us to new fulfilling adventures and exciting collaborations.
M2M Te Atatū received an award in the category “Look Back to Move Forward” for celebrating places of cultural significance through an innovative and immersive storytelling experience about the taiao and tangata through whanaungatanga and mātauranga Māori.
To create and produce a two-hour immersive audio programme Papaya Stories had to do:
- find a storytelling concept that would link the following elements together: local iwi narrative, stories of Māori whānau during the first urbanisation at Te Atatū Peninsula, the importance of the environmental and ecological context;
- tune into the authentic voice of the narrator, the voice of Papatuanuku that invites participants to look at the familiar surrounding through a lens of the Māori worldview and unknown stories;
- run multiple tests sessions to perfect the timing of the programme
- organise and facilitate free and accessible community events that led to further inspiring korero and outcomes, some of the quotes you can see below
When it comes to the behind-the-scenes process, there are a few interesting things that I discovered. For example, if you want to make new friends, then go and study the plants in your neighbourhood. This is how I met a few people who followed my “plant-based” journey at the Orangahina Harbourview Park. I spent a lot of time at that whenua as I wanted to make the audio narrative as site-specific as possible. I would walk the path a few times a day, staring at the plants for some time, studying the leaves, and making notes in my diary. I would be confused with a biologist or an ecologist as strangers would start asking very specific questions about the plants. And that’s just one of the ideas of how you can meet new people.
However, the true value of this project is not only about connecting with strangers and enjoying the process of making a brand new meaningful audio programme. First and foremost, it is about relationships I built along the way. It is about connecting with people and connecting them with places on a unique level.
To me the M2M Te Atatū project is a living proof of the following Māori proverb:
He aha te mea nui o te ao
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
And that’s what I’d like to celebrate.
Back in 2019, I had the pleasure to work alongside Jack Gray, Art Director of Atamira Dance Company. I was helping him with a project called Whakarongo. The depth of kaupapa and overall experience working with someone like Jack, a Māori soulful artist who breathes and lives with his spirit, inspired me greatly. I wanted to continue learning about the Māori worldview and explore how it can help our personal and collective wellbeing. That was a time I made a clear intention to connect and work more with like-minded Māori artists and organisations.
The power of intention led me to a cascade of conversations and new beginnings.
I spoke about it with Betty MacLaurn, a Strategist Broker in the Henderson-Massey Local Board, who also happens to be one of the most ambitious and helpful professionals I ever worked with. Later she connected me to the Community Waitakere where I met Aroha Te Namu.
I remember the instant spark I saw in Aroha’s eyes when I mentioned the Silent Disco Citywalk and my aspirations to connect with Māori people to share their stories through a medium.
Aroha replied: “This is cool. I know a person whom you need to talk to.”
Mike Tipene from Aktive – Auckland Sport & Recreation turned out to be that person. He was in charge of the M2M project at He Oranga Poutama ki Tāmaki Makaurau, whose main kaupapa was to get Māori people actively moving in their neighbourhoods, connecting them to place, space and face. At the time I met Mike he was looking for innovative and creative ways to capture, adapt and share local iwi stories in West Auckland. And that’s how Papaya Stories came into play.
That was the beginning of our story that eventually led us to this day. I would love to celebrate people I met along the M2M journey, strangers I interacted with, my team and the wider community who came along to one of our events in Te Atatu.
Below are people who contributed to the project generously whom I’d like to acknowledge.
Robin Taua-Gordon from Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority & Settlement Trust, David Tanenui, Carolyn Morgan who contributed to the Māori narrative of the story;
Jack Gray who connected me with Kiri Key, a talented voice-over actress and teacher, who embodied the voice of Papatuanuku and became a narrator of the story;
Māori Marsden for endless inspiration whose work and vision inspired some of my writing
Betty MacLaren for the initial introduction and connecting the dots.
Connect the dots. Tell stories from the past to move forward together in peace.
Connect the dots. Know your whakapapa to empower positive change.
Connect the dots. Connect with those who share similar life values but might have different backgrounds.
Connect the dots. Foster relationships and networking in your community.
Connect the dots. Watch those dots transform into the seeds.
Now we are ready to plant new seeds… Who knows what might grow out of it? 😉
Photography by Sacha Aksuk.