Home / Design  / VR experience brings Whakatāne’s history to life

VR experience brings Whakatāne’s history to life

To showcase Whakatāne’s founding ancestral story, a new virtual reality project has launched combining new technologies with traditional Māori oral culture to create a modern and immersive storytelling experience.

The Mataatua VR project has been officially selected for the 2020 ImagiNATIVE festival, the world’s largest presenter of Indigenous screen content. Held at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, the makers behind the project discussed how it was created and visitors were able to experience Mataatua VR for themselves, along with sharing other work from ImagiNATIVE.

First conceived in 2016, the project was brought to life by a collaboration between local Iwi Ngāti Awa, Whakatāne educational institution –  Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, and creative agency Wrestler who specialise in bringing purpose driven creativity to life through human-centred storytelling.

The experience begins by taking users inside Mataatua Wharenui where a 3D hologram of Joe Harawira, an advisor on the project, shares the founding story of Whakatāne. Users are then transported onto the Mātaatua Waka, by which Polynesians migrated to Aotearoa New Zealand, and undertake a first person experience as a navigator on the journey from Hawaiki to Whakatāne.

“Our objective and goal for the Mataatua VR experience was to provide an example for Māori, particularly our rangatahi, of how our oral histories and culture can be further shared and celebrated through new technologies,” says professor Te Kani Kingi, the project’s executive producer, Ngāti Awa and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi representative.

“It’s also an opportunity to show young Māori the potential career and creative opportunities that exist in this technological space.”

Kat Lintott from Ngāi Tahu and Wrestler co-founder and co-director alongside Kawha, says the project was created from the desire to explore the convergence of new technology and the tradition of oral storytelling in Māori culture.

“We wanted to juxtapose traditional oral storytelling with one of the most modern ways, which led to this immersive VR experience. Making sure traditional Māori stories are not left behind is important not only for Māori, but all of Aotearoa and the world. We hope that this project will help bring the history of Whakatāne to a new generation in a unique and inspiring new context.” 


Kat Lintott: Producer and Co-Director (Wrestler)

Tamati Kawha: Co-Director, Concept Artist and Talent

Professor Te Kani Kingi: Producer, Ngāti Awa and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi representative

Malcolm Mulholland: Historian

Joe Harawira: Writer and Talent

Nancy Brunning: Writer

Jeff Jones: Lead VR Developer & Photogrammetry

Arapaoa Moffatt: VR Developer

Mohsin Ali: VR developer

Chris Ward: Sound

Hinerangi Eruera Murphy: Tokorau, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and Community Collaborator

Daemon Hunt: Technical Support and Community Collaborator

This story was originally posted on StopPress.co.nz and has been used with permission.

One of the talented Idealog Team Content Producers made this post happen.

Review overview