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Taiwan visit plants seed for creative collaboration

Cultural exchange inspires students

JOE DAWSON
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014
Eru Paranihi

NEW FRIENDS: Despite the language barrier Eru Paranihi was able to forge a friendship with a 97-year-old indigenous Taiwanese elder.

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Creative media projects between New Zealand and Taiwan could be on the cards after a cultural exchange between both nations.

Six Maori Development students from AUT have just returned from Taiwan, where they learned about its indigenous people.

The students are majoring in Maori media studies.

The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Eru Paranihi from New Windsor that opened his mind to the possibilities of future travel or even creative collaborations.

The exchange came about after the students met film- maker Tony Coolidge, who is also the director of the Tap Root Cultural Exchange Programme, at the Wairoa Maori Film Festival in 2012.

Mr Coolidge is American Taiwanese and discovered as an adult he was of indigenous extraction. He began exploring his heritage through writing and film.

He was so impressed with the AUT students he invited them to Taiwan. During the 15-day visit the students met with indigenous elders and visited the country's national indigenous university.

Mr Paranihi, 26, says he was blown away by the experience.

"Overall it was a cultural exchange, two different cultures mingling and meeting each other.

"It was the indigenous people of this county, the Maori, meeting up with indigenous Taiwanese to share our cultures."

While he was there he learned of the potential for joint media projects.

"One of the coolest things for a media student was for future co-operative projects," he says.

"There is a trade agreement between New Zealand and Taiwan and that includes media organisations, so if it's a planned co-operation between indigenous Taiwanese and Maori then not only can they apply for funding from their sources but they can apply for funding from here, and likewise we can apply over there - provided it's a co-operative."

A film charting the journey of an indigenous Taiwanese person coming to New Zealand is one idea he has for a co-production.

Another highlight was meeting an elderly woman with whom he was able to forge a connection despite not sharing a language.

The 97-year-old spoke only her indigenous language and a smattering of Japanese so conversation had to be relayed through her Chinese-speaking son and a translator.

"From the whole trip this was the person who will stay with me forever.

"The person I will remember the most is her. She just had a beautiful soul.

"It was a privilege to meet her."

The pair bonded by sharing some sweets and were able to communicate on their own through body language.

"I was just my cheeky self with her and she was laughing," Mr Paranihi says.

From a media perspective he says there are things both countries can learn from each other.

"With their indigenous media it's just recently got up and running, where we have TVNZ that plays some Maori programmes and Maori Television.

"They are just finding their feet.

"But they have more programming catered towards their elders which is something we could do, but in saying that they could probably cater more to their youth because that's who you want to target to revitalise your language.

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"They are the next generation who are going to use the language.

"I think their biggest challenge is it's a lot harder for them to have their voices heard than for Maori to be heard. But they are getting there."

- Central Leader

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