It has been a couple of weeks since arriving in Aotearoa and everyday has been incredible. I originally stated that my visits to Aotearoa have been based in Indigenous Art and I don't know how I thought this trip would be much different even though my qualifications training is in the Natural Sciences of Botany (the study of plants).
Professional activities completed up to this point include but not limited to:
- being hosted as a Visiting Academic/Artist for one week at Waiariki Polytech within the Art Department (Rotorua)
- Attendance to the Auckland Maori Artists Forum/Conference 2013 (Auckland)
- Attendance of the He Manawa Whenua Indigenous Research Conference 2013 (Hamilton/Waikato)
- Attendance of a Matariki (or Makahiki in Hawaiian) Presentation by Dr Rangi Mātāmua at the Hamilton School for Girls, and
- as a Guest speaker at Tai Wananga, helping year 9-11 (8-10th grade) students on a Project Based Research plan of their Traditional Food and Bush Gardens.
The day after I arrived in Aotearoa was Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, also known as the shortest day of the year. Simultaneously this time period celebrates the rising of the Pleiades constellation (Matariki). Currently this time in New Zealand is used to celebrate all things Maori: language ( te wiki te reo Maori), culture (Matariki) , those who have passed and those who will come in the future.
As Makahiki in Hawaii has allowed me to practice and engage with traditions it is of great excitement to me to be present during this time of year in Aotearoa. There are gaps in our Hawaiian knowledge of Makahiki but there are different from those of Maori understanding of Matariki. Through cross cultural dialogue, similar to experiences of the Hokule'a, we as Islanders in Oceania have the ability and capacity to rebuild our understandings of culture which was outlawed and put on the shelve during times of hard colonization.
As a visiting Academic/Artist to Waiariki Polytech I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was not my first time to the campus. Upon my arrival students were preparing to exhibit their BFA projects and prepared for marks given by their tutors (lecturers). The work coming out of Waiariki Polytech Art Department is highly conceptual, applicable to everyday life and allows for the audience to critically think about their role in 2D, 3D and 4D spaces.
I also got to work with first year students who taught me how to harvest, prepare and plait a food basket. Similar to lauhala weaving it was my first time working with harakeke fibers for purposes related to my traditional food research projects. In Hawaii we make food baskets out of coconut leaves and these are used to hold sweet potato, taro, pig and other vegetables from rolling around in our underground ovens. The processing of the kete was fairly straightforward but the time I most appreciated was those of the first years who walked me through. They were interested in making connections to Hawaii, interested in the processing of natural materials and eager to change their lives from what they understood it to be from viewers on the outside. One young Maori man, Tyrone, was very engaging with my in dialogue. We spoke about pre-conceptions of Maori as lazy, intoxicated and abusive of their families. I shared that we have similar stereotypes as Hawaiians in Hawaii but their is much work to do to support and dis-spell these understandings of our people. He shared of his work in his pa, working with multiple counsellors his family and members in council in order to support his whanau. It was at this point I realized my point of the day was not to make a kete but learn and exchange with other people who come from similar backgrounds. Tyrone finished his kete and went back home. He is enthusiastic about school and looks forward to following in his father's foot steps as a master carver.
is related to my N8v doctoral lifestyle journey