2016 | 8 min | Director Rochelle Umaga.
Review Wal Reid

Rochelle Umaga’s short film Stickman about a modern-day Maori topiarist, Abraham Lincoln Pirihi, is a delight to behold.

I have never heard of the art form before, however in Maori circles especially, there is a close relationship between Tangata Whenua and Papatuanuku, mother nature, which this film reinforces.

It’s a rich visual tapestry, as Umaga’s film highlights 58-year-old Abe’s 25-year reticent fascination tying knots in native trees, with the end result gifts given to whanau & friends.

It seems also this art form has been misinterpreted as a rogue disrespect for nature resulting in apparent death threats.

Why this would upset liberal greenies is beyond me. Its antiquated views out of balance compared to children dying from domestic violence, plus the fact he’s using trees on public property seems out of kilter and nonsensical.

Pirihi’s is humility in this regard is commendable.

The 8-minute time span totally justified, as Abe scouts his Northland property in search of suitable twigs to start the process which can take up to 25 years.

I love our Heartland stories, this one is particularly interesting as Umaga breathes life into an otherwise overlooked human interest piece.

Stickman cuts through the sinew and marrow of this great land, a heart-warming experience.

You can purchase tickets here.

Doc Edge screens the best international and homegrown documentaries from 10 – 21 May in Wellington, and 24 May – 5 June in Auckland. For more info check out

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