‘Rangi Tuwhera: Open Sky’ offers a glimpse into the world of taonga pūoro by bringing them into the realm of virtual reality. Hold a pūtōrino in your hand as its mythology and voice unfold around you.
The University of Waikato came to us to help get taonga pūoro into more people’s lives and make them feel more comfortable to pick up and learn about these traditional Māori musical instruments. How can we create awareness around the existence of taonga pūoro, get them to know their stories and encourage more people to explore using and playing them?
To create a sense of awe and to drive curiosity, we decided to explore what digitising taonga pūoro could look like.
Under the direction of Wrestler co-founder Kat Lintott (Ngai Tahu) and acclaimed sound designer and filmmaker Dave Whitehead (Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu) we created Rangi Tuwhera, an interactive experience that enables users to experience and play a pūtōrino - a wooden flute unique to Aotearoa.
As all taonga pūoro are individual, Rangi Tuwhera introduces users to not only the pūtōrino and its unique detailed markings by master carver Sir Brian Flintoff, but also its story of Hine Raukatauri - the case moth and Kōkako. The interactive experience surrounds users in matai trees from whose wood the pūtōrino is made and meet Hine Raukatauri, the Atua (goddess) of flute music, while the pūtōrino story unfolds around us.
Using a method that combined photogrammetry, extensive imagery and 3D modelling based on the photos, enabled us to capture the handcrafted details of the pūtōrino in digital form without changing its physical appearance.
The VR work made its debut in the official selection at ImagineNative 2021, the world’s largest festival of indigenous film and media, and has since been screened at DocEdge Film Festival 2022 and was exhibited at Maorilands 2023.