Karanga mai i tēnei wā a Rangitukia parihā
Ki tēnei maunga Hikurangi tangata
Ki tēnei uri o Maui nukurau
Kaikinikini te ngakau mou
E te tuhi mareikura, Kōkā Keri
Haere atu rā, Moe mai rā
The NZFC and the screen industry sadly bid farewell to writer, educator and te reo advocate, Keri Kaa.
Of Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungungu descent, Kaa began her career as a primary school teacher before moving into a lecturer’s position at Wellington Teachers College. In her fifteen-year tenure at the College she played a significant role in the founding and running of Te Ako Pai, the College’s marae.
Known for her work as a writer and translator, Kaa translated Patricia Grace and Robyn Kahukia’s classic picture book The Kuia & the Spider/ Te Kuia me te Pungawerewere. She wrote Taka Ki Ro Wai, a children’s picture book written entirely in the Waiapu dialect, for which she was awarded the inaugural Māori language New Zealand Post Book Award for Children and Young Adults.
This was just one of many awards for Kaa who was recognised twice in the New Year Honours, first with the Companion of the Queen’s Service Order in 2001, and in 2012 with the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
She also worked widely in Māori theatre, filmmaking and television. She was a cultural advisor to the New Zealand Drama School and worked was a tireless advocate for Māori filmmakers, especially women. In the 1980s she acted as a consultant to the NZFC and later was a member of the committee for the NZFC’s Short Film Fund. As a trustee of the Te Manuka Trust representing the NZFC, she was instrumental in pulling together E Tipu Rea, a ground-breaking series of short films made by Māori writers, directors, actors and crew.
Kaa was also an important contributor to the development of Te Manu Aute, a collective that was the forerunner of Ngā Aho Whakaari.
In 2010 her contribution in this sector was recognised by both the WIFT Te Whaea Whakaata Taonga Award and through being profiled on Māori Television’s series on Māori leaders, E Tu Kahikitea.
In 2013, she was once again recognised by WIFT, this time receiving the New Zealand Mana Wahine Award, and in 2016 received the Ngā Tohu ā Tā Kingi Ihaka – Lifetime of Service to Māori Arts at Creative New Zealand’s Te Waka Toi Awards.