(Pictured at Fale Matariki opening L Pita Turei, Kim Muriwai, Will Ilolahia, Eruera Te Whiti Nia)
Documentary Director/Producer/Artist Eruera Te Whiti Nia, lives on his ancestral land in Taputapuatea, Avarua Rarotonga and he was a keynote speaker at Fale Matariki 2013.
Erueras’ parents Te Ora o te Tangata Rangatira and Inanui i te Rangi raised him along with his twin brother Henere and three other siblings near Takapuwahia Marae in Porirua, Wellington. His ancestor was Lieut-Colonel Eruera Te Whiti o Rongomai Love a Commander of the 28th Māori Battalion.
In 1957, when Eruera was 6 years old, his grandmother took him on an aeroplane to live at Parihaka. He was raised there until he was 9 years old. It was here as a young child that he first met many of the Taranaki kuikui that he would return 30 years later and film in the astonishing Taranaki treasure house documentary ‘ Te Atiawa o Runga Te Rangi.’
Erueras’ first foray into films were made in 1972 while a student of Rudi Gopas (Rudi was married to broadcaster Airini Grennell from Koukourarata, Ngai Tahu) at Ilam School of Fine Arts, Canterbury University. Eruera left art school forming the Christchurch branch of ‘Ngā Tamatoa’ with Tame Iti. They were part of the Nga Tamatoa three week sit in protest on Parliament grounds that presented the 1972 Maori Language bill to parliament.
The next years were spent in protest and de-colonization activities. Eruera was active in the 1975 Maori Land March, 1977 Takaparawha – Bastion Point Land Struggle, 1978 Raglan Land Struggle, 1981 Anti-Springbok tour. During this time Eruera also maintained an active interest in the arts as a sculptor/carver part of Maori Artists and Writers – Ngā Puna Waihanga.
Eruera was introduced to John O’Shea, Pacific Films thanks to his friendship with Craig Walters (Crunch) in the late 70’s, early 80’s. Crunch was born and bred in Stratford, Taranaki and worked as Line Producer and Associate Producer at Pacific Films.
John O’Shea encouraged Eruera to write down his film ideas and Eruera began working for Pacific Films where he took a special interest in camera. Eruera was approached by Mrs Nicholas (Darcy & Garry’s mum) and encouraged to record the stories of the Taranaki kaumatua but it wasn’t until 1986 that Eruera was able with the help of Crunch and Pacific Films to complete that kaupapa.
In 1986 Eruera formed Rangiatea Films and Produced/Directed the 48 minute documentary ‘Te Atiawa o Runga te Rangi’ that was commissioned for TVNZ. A portrait of the remaining kuia and koro from Taranaki, they discuss in 100% Taranaki mita, their families, education and way of life.
On Tuesday 24 July 2013 Eruera traveled to Wellington thanks to NZ Film Archives and screened his films ‘Te Atiawa o Runga Te Rangi’ (1986) ‘ Huakina (1987) a look at the polluted seas and land in Taranaki due to oil drilling, ‘Nga Tai o Makiri’ (1987) a study of four Taranaki rivers, with three being almost destroyed due to dairy farming and oil drilling, ‘Te Ara Puoro o Aotearoa’ (1996) a portrait of long time colleague and fellow artist Hirini Melbourne to a largely Taranaki audience. It was around 1996 that Eruera returned to Rarotonga to care for his father after the death of his mother. Now that his father has passed, Eruera remains on their papakainga of Taputapuatea.
The Wellington reception for the films was overwhelming for Eruera made even more special by the presence of Crunch and his family and also Takau his daughter and partner with Erueras’ first mokopuna. After such a long absence from Aotearoa, it is hoped he’ll return to Parihaka to screen his films in August 2013.
Eruera returned to Rarotonga to resume filming his latest work on the Arikinui o Rarotonga that he began last year. He hopes to complete filming in all the outer islands of Rarotonga shortly. This month he will also travel to Canada with fellow sculptor Felipe Tohi (Tonga) for a symposium of Pasefika artists.
Sources: Conversations with Eruera Nia, Fale Matariki July 2013: Conversations with Craig Walters (1990 – present) NZ Film Archives Wellington 24 July 2013 Eruera Nia Screening : Are Korero: Thesis Eruera Te Whiti Nia 2009