Greg Bruce meets Scotty Morrison, a man in search of where he came from.
Towards the end of the first episode of the new TVNZ 1 series Origins, host Scotty Morrison sits on a deserted beach on an island in French Polynesia, looks down the barrel of the camera and chokes back tears as he tries to talk about the significance of the land on which he sits.
Earlier in the day, he had met local guide Romy Tavaeari'i who had greeted him with a hongi and the words, "Welcome home." From that moment, he felt he was somewhere special.
"It hit me right in the heart, eh," Morrison says now. "Hit me right in the spiritual sense. Just blew me out of the water straight away."
From there, Tavaeari'i took him on a journey around the island, Raiatea. They started at the place a man variously described as the "supreme teacher" and "supreme holder of knowledge" had once lived. His name was Ngātoroirangi.
"He's an ancestor of mine," Morrison says. "It's 22 generations from him to me."
Next, Tavaeari'i showed Morrison the former living place of a man called Tamatekapua, who was the captain of the vessel, which first brought Morrison's ancestors on the journey from eastern Polynesia to Aotearoa.
"I was standing right where he used to live," Morrison says, "So I recited one of our ancient incantations that I'd been taught. 'That name that you said in that incantation,' Tavaeari' said, 'That's the name of this land.'"
He asked Morrison the name of his ancestors' waka - it is Te Arawa - then led him to a place called Te Arawa Springs.
On and on it went: "Everything was connected," Morrison says.
"Everything sort of synced up, like planets aligning. it was incredible ... It was like walking out into a boxing ring and boom - one hit - boom, you get knocked over.
"It felt like I'd come back home," he says, "Come back to the place my ancestors had originated from. And you could feel it - I could feel it - tangibly and intangibly. I could see where they had lived but I could just feel they were there and that was just really an experience that was pretty unforgettable."
Watching him there on the beach at the end of that first episode, trying to deliver his piece to camera, it's possible to both see and hear all this in his face and his breaking voice, a sense that something momentous had happened to him in this place.
One way to think of home is as the place in which we live, but that is an overly simplistic definition for a notoriously complex concept.
Morrison grew up in Rotorua in a Māori family, none of whom spoke te reo. His high school offered the language as a subject but only to those in the bottom three streams. To those in the higher streams, like Morrison, the available language subjects were French and German.
After leaving school, for teachers' college, he moved into a flat where he quickly discovered his flatmates spoke almost solely in te reo. He realised he had two options: he could move out and find a flat with flatmates he could understand or he could become fluent. One morning, part of the way through that year, he woke up and realised he understood what his flatmates were saying.
Since then, he has become a well-known teacher and broadcaster, hosting television shows including Te Karere and Marae, and establishing himself as a Māori language champion, with a string of Māori language learning books that have made him a bestselling author many times over. More recently, he's produced books with his wife, broadcaster Stacey Morrison, with whom he has three children: Hawaiki, Kurawaka and Maiana.
It's parenting those three children, he says, that is most important to him. "One thing I learned off my father was, 'Do as I say, don't do as I do.' He wasn't really engaged with us. Mum was the one who did everything. Mum was the one who guided us and was at all our events and all that. So I think I've always had it in my head that I'm not going to be that kind of father, that I'm going to be different to my father. So I try and be present all the time and try and participate as much as I can and be patient as much as I can - as long as that lasts - but I think presence is the one. And also prioritising. That means it's not about you anymore."
You might have something you want to do, he says, but it's more important for the kids to do what they need to do: "It's about prioritising them and what they need."
"You can do great things in your life but I think the ultimate judgment on how well you performed in your life as a person, is what your kids will say about you. People in the community can say, 'You're so great at this, you're such a great leader' and blah blah blah but, if you ask the kids of that person and they say, 'He sucked', to me you've failed."
On the language courses he runs, he asks people to recite their pepeha: the landmarks in their tribal area that indicate who they are, where they come from and who their people are. Non-Māori on these courses are often unsure as to which landmarks they should use and what places they connect to. He tells them: "This is when you go on your journey of discovery." By this, he means: this is where you find out where you come from, who your ancestors are, where they lived and why that matters. He is talking not just about their grandparents and great-grandparents but about something much deeper - their sense of place in the world.
He says: "For Māori, as well as for a lot of other people who live in Aotearoa, we have lost connection with our spirituality. We do have a spiritual side and that needs to be maintained and kept healthy. And how you do that is to make sure that you understand where you originate from."
Non-Māori students who become conversant in te reo tell him they find learning the language deeply satisfying. They say it helps them understand how they fit in, in Aotearoa, helps them understand their place in this country and how they need to function here. He says they often tell him: "It makes me feel like I'm home."
Māori students, he says, often struggle with embarrassment and even a sense of trauma at their disconnection from the language. He says it can take a lot of healing before they can even start to learn. This is because the language is not just words but, he says, it informs everything about what it is to be Māori and about how to conduct yourself in the world as Māori.
"It's all in the language," he says, "and if you haven't got the language, you can't connect with any of those things. And that's why our people I think are in the situation they are, in terms of statistically, health, all of those things, because the language informs all of that stuff, tells you how to function as a person. If you haven't got the language it's difficult to function properly."
This is a big part of his advocacy and efforts in growing and spreading the language. It's about more than just the acquisition of a means of communication.
He says: "I think it's really important in terms of their health and wellbeing living in today's world, because we're so disconnected now, we're so multicultural now, that people do lose their identity and their connection to where they're from and I think that affects them. It affects their mental wellbeing, their mental health."
He credits the growth in interest in Māori language learning to the work done over many decades, dating back to groups like Auckland's Ngā Tamatoa and Wellington's Te Reo Māori Society, who advocated for the language in the early 70s, petitioning Parliament as part of a push for change. The work he and Stacey and others are doing now is just the latest incarnation of that.
He says: "We're in the middle of the tides of change in terms of where Māori language and Māori culture fits in our society and where it's heading to in the future."
What is Hawaiki? This is the question to which he returns over and over throughout the three episodes of Origins, asking it of himself and his many interview subjects. In Māori tradition and myth, Hawaiki is the place from which Māori travelled to reach New Zealand and is the place to which they return after death.
The answers he gathers to the question are varied. For some, it's a specific island or islands from which their ancestors voyaged to reach their homeland; for others, it's a spiritual place; for still others, it's an ideal. In episode two of Origins, Māori master navigator Jack Thatcher tells Morrison he thinks it might be the ocean. For Morrison, though, the answer is clear: It is Raiatea.
"When we speak about Hawaiki, we speak about our place of origin - where we come from - and it's really important to us in a spiritual sense but we know as well that we have other Hawaikis: There are Hawaikis right through the Pacific. this Hawaiki here in Aotearoa is our current Hawaiki, it's the Hawaiki we physically inhabit but I think the Hawaiki we come from in Raiatea, that's our spiritual Hawaiki. All of the oral traditions and knowledge that our ancestors created when they came here, all find their origin back there. It all originates from there."
The emotion you hear in his voice and see on his face as he sits on that beach in Raiatea in the first episode of Origins is physical evidence of the power of connection to place and to our past. That connection, he says, is available to all of us. We just need to seek it out.
"It gives you identity," he says. "It tells you who you are. It completes you as a person."
What it doesn't give you, though, is a place to live, a place to raise your children and create a life for yourself. Aotearoa is the place he has been able to do that, because it is the place in which his ancestors arrived hundreds of years ago - in the process creating new systems of knowledge, new ways of speaking, new ways of living.
"This is our turangawaewae," he says, "This is where we feel indigenous. This is where we feel at home."
Origins episode one screens on TVNZ 1 on Tuesday, September 15 at 8.25pm