Welcome to the TūHOE blog
Ana Scotney (Ngāti Tāwhaki) calls herself a Māori-Jewish-Buddhist kid with qualms.
Raised outside of the rohe, she wasn't really connected to her Tūhoe side except during the school holidays. She would travel back to the heart of Te Urewera - Ngāputahi where her late father, Joseph Doherty and step-mum Joanna Doherty lived. Here she would help with the whānau business Te Urewera Treks by preparing kai and taking manuhiri on walks.
“For the most part, I have grown up with my mother in Wellington. Being away from the rohe for the majority of my childhood has meant that I have had to make a substantial effort in maintaining my whānau ties.”
Ana reveals she still has a lot to learn. Being connected to Tūhoe for her means learning about the politics, people and places; understanding how the history influences the present reality of Tūhoe and how this will define the future. She has lots of awesome memories too.
“…Having mean swims in the Okahu river in the summer holidays, huge get togethers for weddings and tangi, meeting new whānau and learning more and more about how we are connected. Hearing my Kuia speak such incredibly beautiful, unbroken reo all through my childhood and teenage years – it’s not something I take for granted.”
Image: On the set of web series BURBS
Now in her final year at Toi Whakaari drama school, Ana has created and performed a number of solo plays in front of diverse audiences. Her play “Death of Nomad” looks deeply into social issues such as homelessness, alcohol abuse, and Māori identity. She took this to the streets and performed it in spaces like abandoned office buildings and museums. In the play “Mighty Boy” she plays a 14-year-old Māori Boy who tries to recruit the audience to fight in his gang. She performed this in front of 30 convicted offenders of violent crime at Rimutaka prison.
Seeing massive potential for cross-cultural exchanges, late last year Ana set out to reconnect with her own cultural identity. The dislocation felt between both her Jewish lineage and Tūhoe whakapapa prompted her to explore her ancestry – also a requirement of the rigorous training at Toi Whakaari to develop a unique place to stand as an artist.
After saving money from her part time job and scoring funds from educational scholarships, Ana made her way first to the Middle East and then deep into the heart of Te Urewera.
“My first night on the Israel National Trail, I actually thought I was going to die because I didn’t realise that there are wolves in Israel. I could hear them howling all around me, through the forest where I had pitched my tent, all night. I Googled them the next day, I laughed at myself because they are completely harmless to humans, and are slightly bigger than house cats. I also didn’t know how to make a fire.”
Feeling slightly embarrassed at her lack of basic bush craft, Ana went on to have some of the most enriching and deeply challenging experiences of her life. It took 50 days to walk the length of Israel and she reminisces about the time she got caught in a sand storm, with sands blowing from the Sahara, and having to hide out in a pipe for a couple of hours before asking soldiers for food through the barricade of their army base.
“Amazing things happened on the trail. I learned to make fire, I learned how to get by with very little, I had planned on walking on my own, but I made life-long friendships with a Danish guy and an Israeli guy who I traversed the desert with.. The trail made me realise how much good there is in the world-even in a complex and politically charged country like Israel.”
The second part of her internship involved volunteering at the Wi’am Conflict Resolution Centre in Bethlehem, in the occupied territories of the West Bank. Ana spent time restoring the gardens of the centre, which are located immediately adjacent to the separation wall between Palestine and Israel. While there, she shared her experience of being a young Māori person in New Zealand, and learned a lot about what it is like to live under occupation.
Image: "MAU" Site Specific Work, The National Library of NZ
“Spending time in the occupied territories of Palestine (The West Bank) was an enormous eye opener for me. It was hard to see the way that the people living under occupation have to resist pressure to assimilate in a country that does not recognise their unique needs as a people, culturally and religiously. While I was in Palestine, pellets of tear gas were thrown into the refugee camp behind me. I came back to New Zealand ready to be more simple, to be more grateful for the delicacies of life here - and for our thick, lustrous rivers.”
How the physical geography of a place influences the cultural landscape of its people is what interests Ana most. On return to Aotearoa, she ventured deep into Te Urewera to reconnect with her Tūhoe side. Here, she held a wānana with the Ruatāhuna Youth Group and facilitated debate and discussion around the idea of “Power” - What does power look like? When are you most powerful? Who has power? These responses were then turned into material to create a performance for the community of Ruatāhuna.
“Working with the rangatahi in Ruatāhuna was really important to me. Hearing their perspectives, their hopes, their aspirations. I am trying to figure out how I can continue leading and facilitating wānana of this kind, with the young people from the rohe. I loved being able to start the process of building relationships with young people from Tūhoe.”
A successful recipient of this year’s Tūhoe education contributions, Ana is set to graduate in November 2016. In the long run, she hopes to return to both Palestine and Tūhoe to create an original work of theatre.
“It is important that theatre be used as a mouthpiece for a community, to express what can’t be said in person to person dialogue.”
Image: Ana Scotney on the Marae