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Archives footage in TV1 documentary Hokinga Mai

By Diana Roberts

An encounter with the archives isn’t a trip into the past; it’s more like the past flowing into the present. The copperplate writing of minute books and account ledgers, the earnest faces gazing from photographs, and the voices speaking from recordings bring those people into our company.

That’s especially true of the film in the collection. Movies give vivid and immediate contact with people and can provide a startlingly personal connection. Yet the processing technique for the old films means that the film itself becomes fragile and unstable. So a few months ago the Auckland Archive’s collection of films were recorded on video cassette, and the original films lodged with the NZ Film Archive, which can provide the specialised storage they need and make them more widely known.

The growing awareness of the unique value of these items has resulted in a request to the Methodist Archives from the makers of a television documentary series. Kiwa Films will work in partnership with the Film Archive on a five-part series, Te Hokinga Mai, which will involve four different iwi, and will be shown by TV One later this year. This may be the last opportunity for Maori elders to identify those appearing in the films.

One of the featured iwi is Ngaapuhi, and the church archives are providing two films made in Ngaapuhi territory. The films were doubtless made for ‘deputation work’, when the Home and Maori Mission Department of the Methodist Church took a ‘travelling road show’ from circuit to circuit to promote its work.

One of the films: “A six day tour of visitation of North Auckland mission areas”, made in 1942, features the Revs G I Laurenson, H A Darvill, Eru Te Tuhi and Matarae Tauroa. The film progresses through Silverdale and Warkworth and heads for Batley on the Otamatea River. Maori families emerge, the youngsters licking ice creams, the men watching food cooking in iron pots over outdoor fires. Public health nurses visit communities, and a crowd assembles for an outdoor service.

This may mark the opening of a new building, as preparations are underway for a haakari, and men are lifting the hangi. Then the dishwashers step in, and the tables are reset for the next diners. The tour winds on past the huge old Mission Oak Tree, through Waima Valley Road, Rawene, Opononi, Kaikohe, Kohukohu and Broadwood. Along the road children lead their calves and a man sitting in a horse-drawn buggy chats to the minister.

In the second film: ‘The Methodist Church in Northland’, also apparently made in the 1940s, a minister (Rev Les Gilmore?) greets parishioners, who pose for shots outside the church. Then he and his colleagues indulge in a bit of horseplay at the beach.

At the Oturu Native School, children in Maori costume perform action songs and haka, and give three rousing cheers. Ministers call in at small rural communities, where they are welcomed with powhiri and refreshments.

At another school, girls perform a poi and teachers gather round the visitors. On to Kaeo, where we see builders working on what may be the church hall, and view the local landmarks. The action shifts to Kerikeri, where lunch follows a service in the local Methodist church. Then there’s a jaunt to Waitangi and a trip on the ferry across to Russell. Another church service and more food! Several Maori families out in the country are visited by three ministers, and street scenes and seaside views bring the film to a close.

A familiar TV add makes the point that “Being there is everything.” To see those faces from 60 years ago enables us to be with them.

The programme times for ‘Te Hokinga Mai’ are not yet available. We’ll let you know the details when they come to hand.