• Nova Paul

Nova Paul (Ngāpuhi) makes kaupapa Māori films centred around tino rangatiratanga and Māori self-determination. Her new film Ngā Pūrākau Nō Ngā Rākau – Stories from Trees is drawn from whakapapa, whakataukī and kōrero tuku iho – stories passed down from ancestors.

Shot between Aotea and Whangārei, places that Paul has both whakapapa and community connections to, the film plays out across four screens. This moving image installation weaves together imagery and sound, drawing relational connections through a visual vocabulary anchored in rākau (trees) and the ngāhere (forest). The film continues an experimental approach to materiality that Paul embarked upon while making her 2022 work Rākau. Turning to rākau as a physical component in her filmmaking process, Paul created a plant-based developer incorporating leaves and bark of the trees that she films, using it to hand process black and white sixteen-millimeter film.

Utilising this technique, Ngā Pūrākau Nō Ngā Rākau creates a cyclical narrative in which scenes of self-determination and collective learning alternate with imagery of rākau. In the longest of these scenes, or chapters, tāmariki play beneath the branches of a pūriri tree growing near their school Te Kura o Okiwi. On the fringes of the ngāhere they work together to create a space for themselves which they call Hawaiki – a site of agency, origin and return. This chapter was first shown as a self-contained film, titled Hawaiki, premiering at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

The central thematic threads of Ngā Pūrākau Nō Ngā Rākau are drawn across the work’s chapters, which include scenes of kawakawa harvesting, fishing, language learning and storytelling. As these scenes unspool, their visual and thematic concerns are echoed across the installation. Imagery of the landscapes in which they play out – the awa, moana, maunga and ngāhere – create a layered visual vocabulary rich in connection.

Combining an experimental approach to technique with a commitment to picturing self-determination, Ngā Pūrākau Nō Ngā Rākau continues Paul’s expansion of filmmaking as a medium for visual storytelling.

Ngā Pūrakau No Ngā Rākau is screening simultaneously at City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi and the Whangārei Art Museum. This project was supported by Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa.

In association with Whangārei Art Museum
Supported by Creative NZ, City Gallery Wellington Foundation

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