Helping to get more rangatahi Māori interested in animation and design industries, the first class from the Māoriland MATCH programme are set to graduate today.
The Māoriland film festival is run every year out of Ōtaki, a small town on the Kāpiti Coast. The five-day event hosts a number of Indigenous storytellers every year, with games, animation and creative technology telling the stories of cultures from all over the world. Two years ago it was where Māoriland programme manager Madeleine De Young got the inspiration to introduce rangatahi Māori to the world of creative technology in an effort to elevate Māori stories.
With no local coding club, and little resource for kaiako to take on the teaching responsibilities themselves, the Māoriland team started MATCH, the Māoriland Ahi Tech Creative Hub, a course running in three levels for kids in Ōtaki and the Horowhenua-Kāpiti Coast to become leaders in creative technology.
The three levels of class cater to rangatahi from ages 12 to 24, the final level being a six-week programme culminating in a paid industry internship. The first class from the senior programme graduates today, and De Young says it’s been gratifying to see how the students have developed over the short six-weeks.
“Some of them came in with no experience and just thought it was cool, when they were interviewed we just asked them how they felt about storytelling and what their dream future looked like. We interviewed about 30 people to get down to the nine we had in this course and it was about finding the ones who had that spark that would grow from this programme.”
The course is industry endorsed by companies like Weta Digital, who took the nine MATCH graduates through a few days of behind-the-scenes training. De Young says relationships between Māoriland and companies like Weta have been crucial in the establishment of the course, and she hopes they’re able to feed students into internships at Weta in the future.
“That relationship was built through the production work we were doing as Māoriland and meeting the right people in the organisation and saying ‘we have these amazing young people here’ and them saying ‘we really need the manpower, so how do we do this in a way that works for everybody?'”
Jared Tuoro (JT) is the manager of MATCH and says he’s thrilled with how far the students have come since they began the programme. Many started without a shred of technical animation knowledge, but now all have created a presentation of animated design for their final course project.
“I think they’ve really exceeded their own expectations. You don’t have to be this amazing artist to excel at this stuff.”
Seth Stewart is one of the graduating students. He tried an animation course in 2019, but quickly felt out of place in a space dominated by non-Māori. During the six weeks studying with the Māoriland team he reignited his passion for illustration and telling the stories he grew up with.
“Coming to MATCH I really felt that I belonged. I’ve always looked at movies like Clash of the Titans that show other cultures’ mythologies, and Māori have such good stories to tell so to bring those to life on the screen would be really cool.”
Kararaina Rewi is another MATCH graduate who agrees that animation has much to contribute to the modernisation of traditional stories. For her final project, Rewi created an animation of a bird flying through her pepeha.
“It’s really cool to have so many like-minded people and I personally think Māori people think differently. I want to get more Māori stories out there because they’re so interesting.”
For her, the course has been just as much about the mental support as the practical training. The idea that taking care of yourself is important to be able to produce top quality work is something they emphasise at MATCH, says JT.
“If we’re not well our work’s not well and everything can suffer. We put a lot of emphasis on that. If we can work on it every day we can be better at everything we do, they’ve grown arms and legs in that space too.”
The skills the students have learnt will also be used to further the MATCH course in the future, creating a rangatahi-led environment that gives previous students the opportunity to teach new cohorts coming through. Māoriland has used the tuakana/teina model in other programmes, such as Through the Lens, during which young aspiring filmmakers were sent to overseas Indigenous communities to teach film workshops. De Young says the model helps to enrich leadership skills in tuākana, and help tēina feel more supported by someone closer to their skill and age level.
“There will always be a tuākana who has led a couple of workshops before, they are always supported by our coordinator who came through the programme too, but then we will always try to have a teina in there as well so that we’re growing the pool of leadership talent.”
Preparing the students for industry internships meant teaching not only the technical skills of animation and storytelling, but how to be proactive, how to work in teams and how to face challenges. So many students leave university without these skills, JT thinks, when it should be a crucial part of their learning.
“Out there in certain environments they don’t get a chance to grow. It feels like it’s not a very learner-centered environment in a lot of places they go, it’s very hierarchical and they tell you what to do and you just go do it. That’s caused them to not be as expressive or creative.
“But when you take those chains off it helps them to flourish.”