Battle of the Mountains tale finds new life

By Michael Cugley

By Michael Cugley, Te Rito journalism cadet.

A new animation telling the tale of the Kāhui Maunga has been released by a duo from the New Zealand Herald. Te Kakenga Kawiti Bishara and Ben Cummins’ collaborative effort brought this classic story to life.

The Battle of the Mountains is a widely known tale across Aotearoa.

They story says there were Māori warriors Tongariro, Taranaki, Tauhara and Pūtauaki (Mt Edgecumbe) who competed for the affections of the beautiful maiden mountain, Pīhanga.

After a long battle Tongariro emerged the winner and the defeated maunga agreed to leave his domain travelling as far as they could before dawn, when the rising sun would fix them to the spot.

Ngāti Tūwharetoa descendant Bishara says this is a first for this type of storytelling.

“There is nothing like this to watch for us. When I was younger I grew up with this story of the iwi being shared. So this is for the iwi and for the children.”

The writer of the animation Bishara also says this is a taonga to pass down through the generations.

“Perhaps in 30 years time, I can look back and rewatch this animation.”

The power of animation

A descendant of Ngāti Raukawa and animation creator Ben Cummins says animation carries a story in a different way.

“Those stories traditionally have been told orally and passed down. When they’re written down they can lose some of that impact whereas now with the power of animation we can show these stories in a way they’ve never been done before.”

Reaching out to other iwi who also have their own version of the story was one barrier Bishara faced but he still encourages them to come share their stories.

“Reaching out to other iwi was one barrier, talking with Ngāti Rangi, Taranaki, and unable to receive anything back.

“Hopefully soon, we’ll be able to reach out again. Don’t be shy, come along and share your stories.”

But this isn’t the end for Cummins, as he is now looking at the arrival of Māori in Aotearoa.

“Keep an eye out, we might be doing something in the coming months on the seven waka with the migration.”