Work in Progress: Sarah Jane Tonkin, Peter Houston, Mike Grey, Hareruia ‘Ruia’ Aperahama. Copyright 2007

Short film I shot on Mt Taranaki at Dawson Falls and Ratana Pa.

Featuring Mike Gray of Christchurch, New Zealand. Music and Treatment by Hareruia (Ruia) Aperahama, Aotearoa (from ‘Whats’ the time Mr. Wolf’ – Once were Warriors Fame) from his beautiful album and generosity in gifting its usage.

Tikanga are the Maori customs and traditions that have been handed down through the passages of time from our Tupuna (ancestors) Aroha and thanks to Ruia for guiding us all and crew on the mountain and in the spiritual Quest to make this film. Kia Kaha!

Short Synopsis:
This Film describes in images and song, Spiritual Journeys.
This is the story of how Mikes’ ancestors arrived at this land: Mike Grey and a hooded Man (cf celtic mythology) makes a pilgrimage back to the mountains that held significance to the Prophet Ratana : Mt Taranak,i Aotearoa New Zealand; Mt Fuji, Japan; Mt Sinnai, Egypt. The flight of the Kotuku from the spirit world of Reinga and its metaphor off a small plane back to Startford tell the story of Death of a Maternal parent.
Mike returns to the falls at the foot of the mountain and invokes us to “be the change we want to see in the world – anything is possible — even moving mountains”

Kurawaka: from red clay called kurawaka the son of Ranginui and Papatūānuku forms the body of their mother, the first woman. Here, the kurawaka is the bowl or womb from which life begins…Human life and knowledge were said to originate in the realm of Ranginui, the sky father. In Māori mythology the primal couple Rangi and Papa (or Ranginui and Papatuanuku) appear in a creation myth explaining the origin of the world. In the Māori world view, land gives birth to all things, including humankind, and provides the physical and spiritual basis for life. Papatūānuku, the land, is a powerful mother earth figure who gives many blessings to her children.

The red bowl graphic is thus a potent symbol of life blood from the womb. The kowhaiwhai pattern that grows under the bowl is formed from koru shaped links, referring to the growth frond of the native fern. This is a symbol of life – the featus.

“The Maori tell their story with symbols colour and song” you are welcomed into the spirit world by nga taonga puoro (Maori traditional musical instrument) Putatara conch shell trumpet played by Dr. Richard Nunns. “They are the soundscape of New Zealand, now. People think they won’t know them but they do. They are sounds that could only have come from Aotearoa. They are the markers of knowing New Zealand, of knowing our language.” These Maori musical instruments had a variety of roles from signaling, to ceremonial and ritual use.

Before there was any light there was only darkness, all was night. Before there was even darkness there was nothing. Of these things it is spoken in our karakia, those that were given down from ancient time that name all the ancestors of Maori People. It is said in the karakia, at the beginning of time there stood Te Kore, the Nothingness. Then was Te Po, the Night, which was immensely long and immensely dark: Te Po nui,
Te Po roa,Te Po uriuri,Te Po kerekere,Te Po tiwha,Te Po te kitea,Te Po tangotango… meaning the Great Night, the Long Night, the Dark Night, the Intensely Dark Night, the Gloom-laden Night, the Night Unseen, the Night to be Felt. The first light that existed was no more than the glowing of a worm, and when sun and moon were made there were no eyes, there was none to see them, not even kaitiaki. The beginning was made from the nothing.


The flight of the rare Kotuku bird, which can only be seen at Okarito Lagoon South Island NZ, is said to “be seen only once” as it is “the inhabitant of the netherworld, the spirit land of Reinga” and is a metaphor for the flight of the spirit from the spiritworld – the song that accompanies this flight speaks of a passing and is significant to the filmaker as at the time of making this film her mother was dying from a terminal illness.

The soundtrack is provided by Dr. Richard Nunns playing nga taonga puoro (Maori traditional musical instrument) and Hareruia ‘Ruia’ Aperahama from his album.

A Haka (challenge) from Maori warriors breaks out – Mikes’ brothers rise from the enveloping Te Po, the Night. They lie in wait, bound by the whenua (land) – From the native bush, Mike emerges as a Maori warrior dressed in grass skirt, Kiwi feathered cloak and holding the Patu weapon. Around his neck is the greenstone symbol of strength. He looks around and deciding he is safe lowers himself to the earth to rest. He removes his warriors cloak to cover himself with and curls up.

A narrative begins; telling the story of Mikes’ ancestors – Koru emerge from the whenuas’ mauri to embrace Mike – his ancestors were originally bound for Taranaki but by a twist of fate landed elsewhere – Mike however, dressed in colonial clothing, shakes himself as if from a dream; shaking his cloak with his elbows like wings longing for flight – and rises to stand at the place they were fated to arrive at. He looks around, bemused, and when he looks down – is surprised to see himself – Maori Mike – as the mauri fern frond unfolds from this embryo – and reacts by turning away and thrusting his elbows up. The spirit within him takes flight – and leaves the physical form of his colonial ancestors; flying over the bush skirt of the mountain to Mt Taranaki. Here the mauri (life force) spirit decends to the foot of the falls – and enters a confused and lost Mike of 2005.

We are introduced to the hooded man – of celtic scots decent, married to a Ratana princess.

He invokes the mauri of the whenua (land) to “tell him” what he should do… he splashes the icy mountain river water over his face – and time stands still – as he is told …” I have been waiting for you, for all of you, I have brought you here to be a witness to my truth – follow the rainbow. and is moved to follow the rainbow. Here he picks up stones to take with him as koha (gifts) to the other mountains…thus joining the three mountains in a spiritual circle and will forever close the circle by bringing stones home again to the sacred falls.

Mike tells us the story of how in 2005 he went with his brothers to visit the waterfall of the Prophets on Mt Taranaki – Before they ascend to the falls they first sought permission at the gateway to the mounatin – His brother invokes a Karakia (prayer) – This is important tikanga. He thus begins his journey at the gateway to the mountain and seeks permission from the ancestors at the Sacred Falls. It was here that Ratana saw a vision of a Rainbow and was gifted with the spiritual power to heal the sick. Mike tells how he decided to collect three stones from beneath the waterfall so that he could connect three mountains on his pilgrimmage.

We see the red car driving the brothers up the road from Stratford to the falls. As the cloud that had shrouded the mountain is lifted by Hareruia ‘Ruia’ Aperahama, he speaks to his ancestors – He speaks from earlier times from when the people of Taranaki were ravaged by war and their land and Marae under threat from the crown – The words of the Prophet Te Whiti O Rongomai March 1880 “Though some in darkness of heart, seeing their land ravished, might wish to take up arms and kill the aggressors, I say it must not be. The rainbow and Star rise …the Rainbow and Star that the hooded man follows are symbols from the Maori world of Ratana that lead him around the globe in a search for the intergenerational message of faith peace and understanding that the film speaks of.

A sequence unfolds that might remind viewers of experimental film work done by the experimental filmaker Len Lye (Taranaki)- the lights of Tokyo from the skyscrapers are reduced to neon lines that flutter and arch like spiritual birds on the wing.

Four boxes frame footage from this part of the world in a travelogue dairy; the sun of Tokyo, stupas, billboards and skyscrapers of Industry – and another four frames lead us forward to Mt Fuji. Mikes’ hand-held footage is deftly woven in as we see him documenting his arrival in the snow on Mt Fuji Yama Nippon. Trees cast shadows on the snow like ancient woodgravings as Mike throws a snowball – it rolls away from him like a burden unleashed. The Mountain speaks: “I’ve been waiting for you, for all of you. I have brought you here to be a witness to my truth – follow the rainbow. The star trailing a rainbow encircles the mountain like a crane in flight.

Four boxes frame footage of Egypt; pyramids, ruckshaws, shant towns, ancient inscriptions. We open on Mt Sinnai, Misr to triumphant brass on the sound track. The star arrives trailing the rainbow as pilgrimms assemble. In its wake – Mike is here – telling how ” every night, hundreds of pilgrims climb to the top of Mt Sinnai to watch the morning sunrise and as I climbed in the darkness carrying with me two stones from two sacred mountains I wondered what lay ahead. I let the rising sun warm my face and as the sun rose i turned, I removed my hood and looked toward the deep valley before me. I gathered myself and stepping forward
I took the two stones from beneath my jacket. First I threw aloft from Aotearoa, Mt Taranaki, and then I threw deep into the valley below Japan – Mt Fuji yama thereby connecting these mighty mountains together forever”

Four boxes frame footage of Mike descending from Mt Sinnai, camels and fellow pilgrims. As he descends the valley…the star and rainbow (Ratana Faith) lead him on.

The spiritual theme is continued in the return journey as a tiny insignificant plane takes of from Stratford (where the filmaker first arrived in New Zealand and grew up) and flies toward Mt Taranaki. Sunrise at Stratford Airport – a small top dressing planes rotor begins to turn and a small plane begins its wobbly takeoff from a frosted ground – its wheels leaving a rainbow arc in the frost – It takes off toward the sun and turns flying across the paddocks and farmland below – Onward toward the Mt Taranaki- above the cloud cover – the plane tips precariously just as her world did upon hearing the news of her mothers illness and it is the spiritual star and rainbow descends into the mist… a portent of things to pass. The soundtrack is chosen from a track by Ruia that was written as his Father passed.

Four Boxes frame footage of the historic and scared Ratana Pa as its flock merge toward the Church in triumphant procession, Mike standing on the road back to the falls, the canoe that brought the people to this land Aotearoa, and the hooded man in the river flowing from the mountain – we look down on the hooded man standing before the gateway – water falls down like tears. Mike clambers over the rocks at its base – water jumps and spurts to greet him home, back to the sacred falls – blessed water flows – Mike”we’re all looking for something, we’re all looking for signs…” – Mike stands in the falls as water flows down over him – “we’re all waiting…waiting for something” – Mikes’ head is baptised by the flow of the Sacred Falls – water gushes over him like a cloak or perhaps new found wings of freedom – maybe we’re waiting for something that’s already found us – maybe that’s us – maybe we’re the people we’ve been waiting for. To move a mountain all you need is momentum – momentum and desire. So in 2007 I returned to the waterfall of the prophets to complete the circle.” – Mike drops into the pool in full body immersion -” I baptised myself in the waters …” and he looks back at the sacred fall befor moving onward – “…and carried with me the stones from Mt Fuji jama and Mt Sinai…” Mike passes between two boulders in the river – ” connecting these great and sacred mountains together once more. ” Mike takes the two sacred stones from his sweater. He holds the stones in his clasped fists before him – “…And as I said my prayer I prayed to find my voice – a voice that would be heard. I prayed that my words would be like a spear into the hearts and minds of the people of this world. ” As the stones fall from his cupped hands into the pool, a rainbow emerges in a circular field around them. “I prayed to hear the music, the music and melody to the songs of deliverance for I shall deliver. For his songs shall deliver … ” Mike turns and gazes into the pool at the foot of the falls and sees a vision of his child boy in the pool. ” I a nei akanei ai ” Mike descends fom the pool over the stony trail and stumbles – regaining his balance by raising his arms in flight – once more…”Be the change you want to see in the world – anything is possible – even moving mountains.”

The credit sequence features stills shot by Anthropologist Martin Gray of sacredsites.com – Places of Peace and Power. “Since ancient times, sacred sites have had a mysterious allure for billions of people around the world. Legends and contemporary reports tell of extraordinary experiences people have had while visiting these places. Different sacred sites have the power to heal the body, enlighten the mind and inspire the heart. What is the key to the mystery of the sacred sites and how are we to explain their power?”

Anthropologist Martin Gray has spent thirty years studying and photographing hundreds of sacred sites in more than one hundred and twenty-five countries. This Film features a selection of slides from his work.

Ruia speaks: “Our mountains are our witnesses, our covenants, our tabernacles, our mosques, our temples, our castles, our cathedrals of life living life, being life, being alive. Mountains are our constant companions. Whether snow clad, or fire breathing they provide us with a template model and example iof how humanity may know that there is peace, love, patience, tolerance and understanding by observing, respecting and sharing our mountains.

Dr. Richard Nunns plays nga taonga puoro (Maori traditional musical instrument) to close the journey.



The final shot is a shot from a chopper on the gyro mounted camera on the nose of the chopper – the rising sun behind Mt Taranaki. – the sun as it rises behind the summit throws a shadow creating a bowl – or Kurawaka- a top the summit – and the shadow cast is a pyramid echoing Fuji Jama, over the fields and paddocks of farmland below.

Special Thanks is acknowledged to the Iwi (people/tribe) of Taranaki; Nga iwi o Taranaki.

The sun as it crests the mountain summit becomes a flare of a star – perhaps for us all to follow???


Thanks to our Chopper pilot for some amazing gyro shots over Mt Taranaki; Stratford Airport and the top dressing plane & pilot; enjoy some gorgeous archive 16mm Film footage of the rare Kurawaka in flight over Okarito; thanks to the Palmerston North Museum for gifting Taonga worn by Mike: grass skirt/ cloak/ patu; greenstone from Kaikoura sourced from the South Island, the Ratana Pa for allowing us to film during holy worship and for usage of sacred symbols; some amazing CGI animation by Eric Woods of CHCH and Pete Tonks our amazing location guy with his Mr Wippy van; thanks to Andy Rennie of Brightlights CHCH for some HMI enlightenment and James Creevey for the Panther crane – love it! Peter Houston for Direction and Project Management. Special thanks and aroha to the Nga Iwi o Taranaki – kia kaha! Thankyou for allowing our crew access to your Sacred Falls. We all stayed at Dawson Falls. Final Credit Sequence Mountain Images Sacred Sites.com Thankyou all.

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