“There was someone at the door and… oh… you don’t mind me telling, do you Joanna?”

Wendy Gomez (Ngāi Tahu – Awarua) speaks off-screen, her voice gently carried over images of a sunshower cutting through dark clouds. In this candid and intimate moment, she addresses her tupuna kuia directly, as if she was there in the room.

This is the striking opening scene of Nakunaku, a short film by Sandy Wakefield (Ngāi Tahu – Ōraka Aparima). “Nakunaku” means to be reduced to fragments, to be disjointed or disconnected; a title Sandy chose because it reflected her relationship with her ancestral landscape before she began this project.

Sandy first learned of her connection to Ngāi Tahu and the southernmost islands of Aotearoa when her grandfather passed away in 2000. This discovery of her whakapapa led to the creation of Nakunaku, an experimental yet precise exploration of Rakiura and its forgotten history. “My tupuna kuia, Whareraki, is buried in an unmarked grave in Ōraka bay, Murihiku,” she says. “It was an act of acknowledgement, to travel the length of the country to pay homage to our tūpuna, and stand in these very special and remote places.”

The filming of Nakunaku took place in March 2018, beginning with a visit to Te Rau Aroha marae at Awarua. “Visiting Te Rau Aroha was an important place to start and pay our respects before we left for Rakiura,” Sandy explains. “Hearing the kaikaranga welcome us as uri of Whareraki made my heart skip a beat. We spent informative hours speaking about whakapapa, and our shared histories that connect us as a hapū.”

Nakunaku is 17 minutes long and consists of footage shot in sites specific to historic Murihiku settlements including Motupōhue (Bluff Hill), Ōraka, and Murray Creek; and on Rakiura, Te Wehi-a-Te-Wera (The Neck), Te Whaka-a-Te-Wera (Paterson Inlet), and Horseshoe Bay. This footage was overlaid with snippets of interviews with wāhine who continue to live and breathe the island of Rakiura. It pays homage to the seen and unseen, repressed memories, and forgotten histories of this region.

“During the interviews, I asked how the wāhine honour the unique heritage of Rakiura and surrounding islands in such a colonised environment; where their whānau came from; what it was like growing up on Rakiura; and about their unique identity as Rakiura Māori,” Sandy says. “I had no idea what the answers were going to be. There were tales of colonisation, hardship, loss of language, and dramatic changes of family values in the span of one generation.

“Passion for the environment poured out of them; creativity and love of family and strong community ties were explained. They are school teachers, photographers, fisherwomen.

“I was so inspired by the stories they shared with me. It took me to a deeper understanding into what it means to be from Rakiura.”

You can watch Nakunaku in full by visiting

Aukaha is a regular feature that celebrates the creative talent of Ngāi Tahu whānau. If you would like to win a copy of 35 Short Poems, or see your work (prose, poetry or visual arts) published in TE KARAKA, please contact us.

If you would like to see your work (prose, poetry or visual arts) published in TE KARAKA, please contact us.

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