The gift of storytelling

By Zoe Walker

A familiar face on our screens, actor/director Rachel House gives us a peek into her home.

Rachel House's Maori Doll painting by Grant Hall is one of her most treasured possessions. Photo / Babiche Martens
Rachel House's Maori Doll painting by Grant Hall is one of her most treasured possessions. Photo / Babiche Martens

Well-known actor and director Rachel House was announced as a recipient of a Laureate Award at the Macquarie Private Wealth New Zealand Arts Awards in Auckland last night, in recognition of her rich experience in television, film and radio.

The passing on of stories, she says, is one of the greatest gifts we have to retain our culture and history; something that has informed her creative life for the past 20 years.

House has appeared in Boy, Whale Rider, Eagle vs Shark and Super City, and earlier this year directed the first te reo Maori version of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, performed in New Zealand and at London's Globe Theatre. The $50,000 Laureate Award acknowledges excellence in the arts and potential for growth, and is presented to five artists each year.

10 FAVOURITE THINGS

1. Stepdaughter's painting

My stepdaughter's painting which she did when she was 5 takes pride of place in our tiny dining room. I love the composition and colours - she is a total genius - and, yes, I am unashamedly biased. It's a very intricate story involving a bunny rabbit, tama nui te ra (the sun) and a girl named Isabella. Isabella starts off at the top right corner then I think has some kind of fight with the bunny in the forest but ends up with the man of her dreams in the bottom right corner. She tried to explain it to me but I couldn't quite keep up - the narrative was seriously off the hook.

2. Franke & Heidecke camera

My Rolleicord medium-format twin lens reflex camera made by Franke & Heidecke. Thanks to Wikipedia I know that it was made before World War II because of the letters DRP (Deutsches Reichspatent) on the top left corner. My old mate and theatre designer Sean Coyle gave it to me on the opening night of Have Car Will Travel, a play by Mitch Tawhi Thomas. Me, Sean, Jennifer Lal (lighting) and Mitch were the creative team. It felt like a really big deal because we were all good friends and had really fought for our collaborative vision - I'm sure people thought we weren't going to pull it off. We were so excited and nervous. I think I cried when he gave me the camera. Twelve years later we're all working together again on Mitch's new play Hui for the 2013 Auckland Festival. They are my dream team. We're brutally honest with each other but there's a lot of love.

3. Art deco teapot

My grandmother's art deco teapot with chrome cover and matching sugar bowl and milk jug. I love art deco and these are definitive pieces of the movement - practical, glamorous, elegant with clean lines. They'll always remind me of my beautiful wee Glaswegian grandmother.

4. Tracey Moffatt coffee table book

I was wandering round Wellington listlessly one day back in 2002 and moseyed into her exhibition at an art gallery. It was like "bang", instant recognition. Her work is so visceral, violent and sublime - I love her social commentary on urban Aboriginal life. I relate to her upbringing and personal politics hugely. The book used to sit on my coffee table as it's meant but I started feeling pretentious so now it lives in the bookcase.

5. Infinity lamp

I bought this in Prague for my first student short film. We had to fund our own work and supply everything too. The film was called Bravo and my dear friend and brilliant actress Luanne Gordon flew over from London to play the lead - another Kiwi actor, Simon London, did too - the cost of tickets were about the same as a cheap flight to Wellington from Auckland. I called it my exorcism film. It was about a self-obsessed actress who doesn't know who she is anymore because she's always playing someone else.

6. Maori doll painting

My good friend and fabulous artist Grant Hall gave this to me on my 35th birthday. I was blown away as I'd been admiring it on his wall for a few years. Grant also painted a matching male doll which someone else has. I love how animated she is; she makes me very happy. She has starred in many Maori Television production sets which Grant also designs, and occasionally he collects her to adorn a set wall.

7. Work table

I bought this off Trade Me. It is so solid and heavy. It used to belong to a couple who had a small production company who used it to house all their editing gear. A friend of theirs made it for them out of a big slab of rimu. Me and the 7-year-old fight over it; she usually wins.

8. Waihau Bay lightbox

I got this made when my partner moved from Waihau Bay to Auckland. The artists' names are Nga Waiata and Peter Baker, they go under the collaborative name Piiata. I got it from an old friend's exquisite shop, Aroha and Friends, in Napier. I spent almost three months in Waihau Bay shooting Boy. It was a pretty amazing time. I mostly lived in Maru-o-Hinemaka (Pararaki) marae. The people were so generous and welcoming. It's a long, windy drive from Auckland but worth it.

9. Vers hand-crafted wooden iPod speaker

The sound on this is mellow and deep; nice bass you can feel. It's been through the wringer a bit by overzealous music lovers passionately swapping our iPods around. At the very worst, a high rotation of songs of tragic yearning from the 1970s and 1980s. At the very best, Tama Waipara fresh from New York giving us a sneak preview of the latest album he made there; coming soon. It's awesome.

10. DVD collection

It's dwindled and grown over the years. People keep borrowing them and I keep forgetting. There are a few crucial films that aren't there yet or need replacing. I don't watch a lot of TV these days except for Maori Television which offers fantastic local and international documentaries and some of the best foreign films around.

- NZ Herald

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