Representatives from Ngai Tuhoe and Whanganui iwi, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson, Actor Rena Owen, Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples and her predecessor Bob Francis, Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey, were amongst the many guests who descended upon Greytown in the wine district of the Wairarapa to celebrate the launch of Vincent Ward’s new book The Past Awaits over the weekend 13th and 14th November 2010.
A powhiri at Papawai Marae, the grounds of the first Maori parliament, Kotahitanga in 1897 kicked off the weekend. Guests were treated to a kapahaka performance by Papawai who perform in colonial dress and soldiers uniforms. This is the attire that they feel best represents the struggle their people went through during the land wars, where 400 of their young men went to fight, but 200 for one side and 200 for the opposing forces. To avoid further division which was already tearing families apart, Papawai itself joined the rest of the Wairarapa in a decision not to join the conflict, instead the region stayed neutral and welcomed all groups to their meeting ground. Ward grew up not far from this Marae and it is no coincidence that something of these themes; cultural division and reconciliation through often intimate engagement have found echoes in his work. In fact the costumes worn by the kapahaka group were gifted to them from his film River Queen.
The launch itself was held at the Town Center, Greytown, in a building constructed by Ward’s ancestors. TV presenter Miriama Kamo acted as MC and Ward presented actor Rena Owen with one of his oil paintings as overdue payment for her role in his film Rain of the Children.
“The people of Wairarapa and Greytown really pulled out all the stops to host a terrific event, the local firemen even volunteered to serve the drinks.” says Ward.
The Past Awaits: People, Images, Film by Vincent Ward is now available from bookstores nationwide and online at www.craigpotton.co.nz