“Film and Social Media are seen as the future. For our rangatahi, they understand this is the world they live in.” – Youngatira Mentor, Jana Nee
For the last six months the Waipareira Instagram has been filled with images of our rangatahi huddled together behind the camera, sketching out storyboards, sporting freakishly real prosthetic hand wounds, and calling action with a clapperboard. This has been the mahi for our new youth programme, Youngatira. Facilitators, Jana Nee and Fender Maeva, have been working together for more than five years mentoring Whānau Waipareira rangatahi. The duo are known for their creative approach to connecting with rangatahi and drawing out their passions and strengths. So, when tasked with designing an innovative leadership programme that represented the worldview of our rangatahi with socially minded messages — they already had the idea.
The idea has developed into a weeklong film camp, workshops with top NZ writers, actors and creatives, and a Youngatira Film Festival to be held at Academy Cinemas 13th July (2018). Jana said it was a unique opportunity because there were no strict boundaries or outputs involved when designing the programme.
“We could go above and beyond the usual restrictions. A lot of other projects are clinically driven, assessment and paperwork. This is really hands on and creative, it’s actually driven by the kids.”
“It’s the kids who come up with all the content, they script everything, they film it, they produce it, they create the event in which they will display it. It’s youth-driven which is part of that self-determination agenda.”
The challenge at first was getting the kids to share their ideas. Jana observed in the beginning the rangatahi were showing interest but were reluctant to explore their creativity. Over the course of the programme she noticed a shift where the kids were standing up, saying what they were thinking and embracing decision making.
“A lot of the kids that came on board had an interest in media, but not much confidence to action their own creative projects. They might think of an idea but think that no one would like it. But what I can see now is they are willing to take risks with creative ideas that come up in their minds and not worry so much about what other people will think of them.”
Fender added that they are big on Whānaungatanga and that creating a safe, family feel in the rōpū is really important.
“Some of them don’t have a good connection at home, but they have that family feel in this rōpū. So you see a change in their attitude because they feel safe and have trust and belief in the circle that they’re in here.”
Youngatira is a massive commitment for everyone involved including weekend workshops and late nights filming. As facilitators, Jana and Fender are navigating a new industry under pressure with their role as kaitiaki guiding the rangatahi, and at the same time learning on the go themselves.
“We focussed on sharing our own creativity and creating space for the kids to be able to express themselves in that way.”
Jana was impressed by the quality of the work produced and the deep messages within the films.
“Having left them to script on their own and to see what they came up with, I didn’t expect it to come out the way it did. When I read through the scripts I could feel, hear and see the passion.”
Fender said watching them work with top level people and seeing the growth that happened from that was also a highlight.
“They are gaining specialized skills, something they couldn’t learn in school.”
“For me, seeing our Youngatira work alongside famous people and be on the same level. For example, Lawrence Makoari (The Deadlands, Die Another Day) working alongside Creed, it’s good to see our youth, almost straight off the street, work with top level people.”
Jana is a creative at heart and is driven by her “want to be creative all the time.” She believes in creative expression as a vehicle for change.
“I know that people who are struggling to voice their thoughts, feelings and emotions, they can do it in a way that’s not so intimidating like an assessment, for example. A lot of the time when you want to help a rangatahi, people sit down with them in a room and make them fill in all these forms and expect the rangatahi to share their story but it’s just not natural for kids to open up like that, not for all kids. I’m a true believer that expressing through your passions can be beneficial for your health and wellbeing. I know because it’s worked for me.”
Fender feels close to this project as an idea that has taken on a life of its own and is motivated to see how far it can go. He can see heaps of potential in our Māori youth for storytelling.
“The difference with this programme is it is By Māori, For Māori. The creativity is strong. In the future I hope to see more Māori in this programme because I believe that our Māori people are really creative, their thoughts and everything are a bit different. Their ability to tell stories in a creative way is natural. Our storytelling culture is passed down in our genes.”
“This programme has opened up career opportunities our kids might not have thought of for themselves. Watching them take to different aspects and find a passion for it, be it make-up and prosthetics, directing, writing or acting. They can now see an alternative future in something they are both good at and love doing.”
“It’s that opening your eyes to new opportunities and becoming more assertive as well, a lot of our rangatahi don’t voice their opinion. To be able to stand up in front of your peers and not care what they think and just assert your opinion about something to make social change, that’s really strong, that’s really powerful and that’s a change we’ve seen in a lot of the kids.”
The term Youngatira was coined by Whānau Waipareira colleagues, Sam Meggitt and Haze White, who work in Data and Research. “Because they’re the young ones, when they had to put on a suit for an important hui with the big guys, they’d be like “Oooh Youngatira.” Being young rangatira in their fields that was how they felt. So we asked them if we could use it for this programme. They said, yup… as long as you credit us.” (LOL)