Te Ara Whānui ki te Rangi | Space Place,
Planetarium screenings from 2 October 2021

Space Place is proud to launch Ngā Tohunga Whakatere – The Navigators, a fully immersive planetarium show, which tells the story of early navigation to Aotearoa through the eyes of budding navigator, Moko.  

Young Moko, finds herself travelling through time and space in this stunning digital animation on Space Place’s full-dome screen which explores the value of indigenous knowledge and early cultural practices in Pasifika, Māori and European navigation.  

The viewer follows Moko, expertly performed by Reina Stephens of Te Rarawa as she gains knowledge and understanding of voyaging traditions and realises how skilled her ancestors had to be, to traverse the largest ocean on Earth. 

Anton Carter, Executive Producer and Public Programmes Manager at Experience Wellington says Ngā Tohunga Whakatere: The Navigators tells a story of the arrival of two cultures to this one land. “This is a story that uses our history to examine our future. A story that uses historical reference points provided by two cultures to navigate towards a shared horizon.”  

The launch of the Ngā Tohunga Whakatere: The Navigators on October 2 is the culmination of many years’ work for Haritina Mogoșanu, Creative Producer and Public Programmes Manager at Space Place, who developed the concept. ” The knowledge we have from studying the stars has made extraordinary achievements, possible – not just scientific ones but also personal. Our message to our tamariki is; learn your science and be our explorers for the future.” 

The production has been carefully crafted with tikanga, cultural and navigational expertise including Pacific Master Navigator Jack Thatcher (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Pūkenga, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Ngāti Awa) and Specialist Naval Navigator Commander David Hedgley, along with Pou Tikanga Joe Harawira (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Tuhourangi) and Tahitian advisor Ena Manuireva. 

Directed by Lala Rolls, Ngā Tohunga Whakatere: The Navigators has also drawn heavily on the creative talents of Wellington. With visuals created by John Strang, his team of animators and illustrators at DUSK and a motion capture team at the Miramar Creative Centre, Stephens’ performance was transformed into the animated avatar of Moko. 

The soundtrack was recorded in a collaborative live musical session, conducted by Riki Gooch, with voice acting and sound mix at Park Road Post in Wellington. A powerful karakia welcomes viewers at the beginning with Pacific sounds, including drumming woven through the musical score. 

“It’s a real celebration of Pasifika navigation, that also shares how European navigators like Abel Tasman and Captain Cook came to Aotearoa and the science they employed to sail here,” says Lala.  

“It’s very much embedded in tikanga Māori, and engages cultural investigation, from research, to scripting, music, animation and motion capture.” 

Ngā Tohunga Whakatere – The Navigators will screen at Space Place from Saturday, October 2 including daily during the school holidays. The project was supported by Lottery Tuia – Encounters 250 as well as The Lion Foundation. 

Suitable for ages 8+. Under Covid Level 2 booking is advised with seating restrictions in place. Go to TheNavigators.spaceplace.nz for tickets.  

Synopsis -NgāTohungaWhakatere: The Navigators  

Moko dreams of becoming a master star navigator like her tūpuna and her koro Jack. The budding navigator finds herself travelling through time and space in the wake of the greatest Pacific navigators, in a fully immersive planetarium show on Space Place’s stunning digital, full-dome planetarium screen. Journey with Moko as she gains knowledge and understanding of Māori, Pasifika and European voyaging traditions and realises how skilled her tūpuna had to be to travel the largest ocean on Earth. Ngā Tohunga Whakatere – The Navigators is a family-friendly animated 30-minute immersive show that’ll take you on an unforgettable adventure! Suitable for ages 8+. TheNavigators.spaceplace.nz for tickets. 

Wayfinding history of Aotearoa: 

“The Pacific Ocean is a highway, not a barrier.” – Jack Thatcher, Pacific Master Navigator 

The latest and greatest human terrestrial migration was to find and colonise islands in the Pacific. Those who explored and settled the Pacific Islands had to develop an entirely new way of life to assist their remote existence, including tools for long-range ocean voyaging. 

Pacific voyagers came to Aotearoa around 1000 years ago. They found their way by using their knowledge of the stars and deploying skills in close observation of wind, cloud patterns, currents, ocean fauna and the migration of whales and birds.   

One of the tools they developed was the traditional star compass. This is not a fixed object, like a traditional magnetic compass, but a learned concept depicting directions around the horizon that are fixed by the rising and setting points of stars, the Moon and the Sun. Learning the star compass by heart is one of the first things navigators need to do before embarking on an ocean voyage.  

About Space Place 

Learn about planets, stars, constellations and galaxies and New Zealand’s contribution to astronomy and space sciences, at Space Place. The observatory shares the stories of Aotearoa and its skies through multimedia exhibits, interactive galleries, the historic Thomas Cooke telescope and full-dome planetarium. 

Media contact 

To find out more about Ngā Tohunga Whakatere – The Navigators including to arrange an interview, please contact Anna Chalmers, Communications Manager, Te Ara Whānui ki te Rangi | Space Place.  
E: annac@experiencewellington.org.nz    Ph: 021 679 697.  

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