Te Whakairo

Te Whakairo - Ngā Kī o Te Tai Ao (The Carvings Carry the Stories of the World).

Two talented carvers from each end of Aotearoa New Zealand take their whakairo (carving) to Antarctica in response to New Zealand's kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of the world’s largest marine protected area - The Ross Sea.

  • Vanessa Wells
    East to East, Give Kate A Voice
  • Emma Smart
    Give Kate A Voice (BTS, Trailers)
  • James York
    Key Cast
  • Poutama Heteraka
    Key Cast
  • Te Warihi Heteraka
    Key Cast
  • Fayne Robinson
    Key Cast
  • Priscilla Wehi
    Key Cast
  • Regina Eisert
    Key Cast
  • Vanessa Wells
    East to East
  • Collectively written by all cast and crew
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Te Whakairo - Ngā Kī o Te Tai Ao
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Nature, Conservation, Maori Art, Matauranga Maori, Indigenous Art, Environment, Climate Change
  • Runtime:
    13 minutes 45 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 9, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
    New Zealand
  • Country of Filming:
    Antarctica, New Zealand
  • Language:
    English, Maori
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Show Me Shorts Festival, New Zealand
    New Zealand
    October 7, 2019
    World Premiere
    Official Selection
  • China International New Media Short Film Festival
    Semi Finalist 2019
  • The Explorers Club Polar Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    January 23, 2020
    North American
    Official Selection
  • FIFO
    Papeete, Tahiti
    French Polynesia
    February 1, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Melbourne Documentary Film Festival
    July 1, 2020
    Australian Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Earth Futures Festival
    New York, Paris, Sydney, Online
    Sept/Oct 2022
    Honourable Mention
Director Biography - Vanessa Wells

Vanessa Wells is a filmmaker and theatre practitioner who has worked in the arts industry for over 20 years. Her debut feature documentary film EAST TO EAST screened to sell-out houses at NZIFF 2018, and was officially selected for FIFO 2019.

Vanessa has a collaborative approach to film, co-directing award-winning interactive work such as GIVE KATE A VOICE (2018), and producing and directing film content within the LIVING FLOWERWALL (2019), Since 2019 Vanessa has written, directed and produced multiple short films for SESAME STREET WORKSHOP.

Her short film TE WHAKAIRO premiered at Show Me Shorts Festival 2019, was a semi-finalist at CSFF in China, invited to screen at The Explorers Club New York Polar Film Festival, FIFO 2020, the Christchurch Polar Film Festival and Melbourne Documentary Film Festival 2020.

Vanessa is also co-vice President of WIFTNZ, having been on the board since 2015, and on the executive committee of Te Puna Matarau, Canterbury's regional screen industry steering group.


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Director Statement

Following a trip to Antarctica in Nov 2018, I was lucky enough to be asked to step in as a field director and camera-person for a project in February 2019, when a previous team member could no longer travel to the Ice.

This opportunity was to provide some straightforward media coverage, however, I quickly realised that there was an amazing story to be told here. And a film idea germinated. This kaupapa (project) was a unique opportunity to tell a story with an different perspective on the climate change narrative.

The Antarctic environment is a dream to work in, but it was the connection to people and place that really struck me as special. And this project, to carve the whakawai and pare (door surrounds) for Scott Base (NZ’s research station beside the Ross Ice Shelf), was a wonderful way to highlight these connections.

My instinct was that it would be a cinematic short film that would appeal to a wide audience however once James and Poutama began working, it was the wildlife and environment that conveyed such a strong a sense of connection. The larger narrative of indigenous mātauranga (knowledge) and the Māori world view is subliminal and runs as a strong thread throughout the imagery and soundscape. There is also much to be learned by the audience, in a gentle way, about the traditions and values of whakairo.

It has been a truly treasured journey to create this film, and I am forever indebted to the generosity and grateful for the collaboration of those who took part.