Wind Song and Rain: A mokopuna's love letter to her grandfather

6:56 am on 22 September 2021

Two wāhine Māori are behind a new short documentary Wind Song and Rain released this year, which explores one granddaughter's connection to her famous grandfather through poetry and te ao Māori.

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An image from Wind Song and Rain. Photo: Annupam Singh

It is being shared as a part of Season 8 of Loading Docs 2021 documentaries.

Watch Wind Song and Rain here

Wind Song and Rain is the title of a poem written by one of New Zealand's most respected Māori poets, the late Hone Tuwhare.

The documentary follows Tuwhare's granddaughter Manaia Tuwhare-Hoani as she is guided back to his homestead at Kākā Point hoping to find connection and arohatanga.

Tuwhare-Hoani, like her grandfather, found a passion for the power of words and regularly performs poetry with the wāhine Māori-led spoken word group Ngā Hine Pūkōrero.

But she never got to meet her late koro, who passed away when she was 5 years old in 2008.

In the film the late poet says: "You're writing love letters to the world" and audiences see that the short film marks a turning point for young Tuwhare-Hoani as she seeks to share her own love letter to her koro.

Tuwhare-Hoani saod said being the central focus of the film was a special experience through which she was able to discover more about her whānau and herself.

"It was important to reconnect because growing up I saw him and I knew him as this famous poet but not really as my koro.

"I saw him as a person for the people and not as a person for me.

"The reconnecting journey was to learn more about him and understand him more but also to have that connection between us as a grandfather and granddaughter" she said.

Matariki Bennett, 19, directed the short documentary adding to her kete of work since graduating from South Seas film and television school.

Bennett was already best friends with Tuwhare-Hoani and the pair had worked together in Ngā Hine Pūkōrero.

She said she enjoyed telling personal stories where the kaupapa is one that she and others can relate to.

Bennett said working alongside Manaia on such a sentimental story was an organic process where everything seemed to just fall into place.

"We talked about what the story could be and what Manaia was wanting and the connection she was yearning for with her koro.

"I feel like a lot of my work from the past, whether that's in poetry or in film, all centres around themes of reconnection and connection to culture and family," she said.

Tuwhare-Hoani said that as a first language speaker of te reo Māori, much like her koro who learned English through reading the bible, she learned English from reading poetry.

While growing up she often looked to her koro's poems for help and support when trying to find her sense of self.

"I learnt a lot from his poetry as a kid.

"My first language was te reo Māori and I was really bad at reading and spelling and English and still am which is hilarious because I'm a poet.

"Poetry has given me a lot of confidence and an outlet to express my creativity that I was keeping in. It's given me myself and the person I am today."

Drawing on the kaupapa Māori values of whakapapa and generational connection, Wind Song and Rain was a way to pay homage to artists of the past, Bennett said.

She is proud of the film and the connection it has created within Manaia's whānau.

"I'm proud of the film because Manaia's happy and her whānau is happy with it, and that's all I wanted to do.

"It's like a gift to Hone and his generation of artists from Manaia and our generation."

Tuwhare-Hoani hoped audiences would understand more about reconnection and how the power of words helped her find her koro.

"It provided me with a lot of healing ... the journey of reconnecting with Koro, it felt so necessary.

"I definitely don't think the reconnection journey is over and I'm excited to see where it takes me next," she said.