Kupe: Voyaging by the Stars (1993)

  • 50min
  • Pita Turei
  • New Zealand, Cook Islands

Nga Tāonga Sound & Vision presents Kupe: Voyaging by the Stars

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Download the KUPE: VOYAGING BY THE STARS teaching resource here:
KUPE Teaching Resource

Monday 29 June, Intro 1:00pm, Q&A 155pm - 230pm
Join the Intro / Q&A Session

“For all Hec’s many achievements, it is possibly his ability to build bridges between indigenous nations throughout the Pacific, which he may become most widely known for. Those who named him Heke-nuku-mai-nga-iwi knew what they were doing.”
— Jeff Evans, Te Karaka

Legend tells how the early explorer Kupe chased a giant octopus from Tahiti across the Pacific Ocean to Aotearoa New Zealand. 

A thousand years later a Northland building contractor, Hekenukumai Busby, retraced Kupe’s course.

Travelling across the Pacific to Rarotonga and back to New Zealand to build a waka hourua (a traditional double-hulled waka), Hekenukumai ‘Hec’ Busby learned and shared the ancient ancestral knowledge and skills of advanced canoe design.

Navigating by the stars, winds and currents, Hec and the crew would eventually find their destination.

Kupe: Voyaging by the Stars was shot a couple of years after Busby was honoured with the New Zealand Commemoration Medal in 1990. A year after the film first screened, he was awarded an MBE for services to Māori.

In all, Hec built 26 traditional waka, the best-known being the double-hulled Te Aurere, which has sailed over 30,000 nautical miles on voyages around the Pacific.

In 2018, Hec was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. He passed away, aged 86, last year.

Kupe: Voyaging by the Stars was originally shot on 16mm Eastmancolor film and mastered to 1-inch videotape. This Nga Tāonga Sound & Vision special presentation is from a new digital restoration of that videotape.


Pita Turei