More than a koru

De­sign re­flects our her­itage and i den­tity. New Zealand’s de­sign i den­tity? Who i s

Idealog - - FRONT PAGE -

Ge­orgina Har­ris ex­plores what role Māoridom plays in New Zealand's desi gn i den­tity

Māori cul­ture, iden­tity and val­ues are the foun­da­tion of Aotearoa. And from the waka to the whare, de­sign has al­ways been in­te­gral to meet the needs of daily life, to in­spire and com­mu­ni­cate. In the past, it’s fair to say that this cul­tural her­itage has largely been em­braced in a to­ken fash­ion; a ‘chuck a koru on it to tick that box’ men­tal­ity. But, in­creas­ingly, whether it’s Māori sto­ries in­form­ing prod­uct de­sign, cul­tural ad­vis­ers in­form­ing the de­sign of build­ings and large in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ments, or Māori de­sign el­e­ments be­ing au­then­ti­cally ref­er­enced and em­braced by some of the coun­try’s largest com­pa­nies, that her­itage is be­ing recog­nised through proper pro­cesses and is be­ing val­ued as a point of dif­fer­ence.

Idea­log spoke with Māori and nonMāori prac­ti­tion­ers – artists, cre­ators, ar­chi­tects, graphic de­sign­ers, ad­vi­sors – to in­ves­ti­gate New Zealand’s mod­ern iden­tity and how Māoridom is be­ing man­i­fested through de­sign out­puts. And speak­ing with artist, de­signer and ed­u­ca­tor Dr John­son Wite­hira is to hear pas­sion and knowl­edge come to­gether in a cre­ative light.

Wite­hira stud­ied graphic de­sign at the Whanganui School of De­sign and com­bined his love of art, im­agery, de­sign and com­put­ers. He grad­u­ated in 2004, go­ing on to com­plete his masters in 2007.

His in­ter­est in Māori art and de­sign led him to Te Pū­tahi-a-Toi, the School of Māori Stud­ies at Massey Univer­sity, where he com­pleted his doc­tor­ate in Māori de­sign.

Wite­hira’s oeu­vre of work is large and di­verse, from a set of 24 Māori al­pha­bet blocks to be used as vis­ual learn­ing aids, mag­a­zine cov­ers, mu­rals, to hav­ing a se­ries of dig­i­tal works ex­hib­ited on 34 bill­boards si­mul­ta­ne­ously in Times Square, New York for a com­pe­ti­tion run by Cho­rus.

His more re­cent work has been for com­pa­nies such as the Auck­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port, New Zealand Trans­port Agency and the Welling­ton City Coun­cil.

When asked what Māori de­sign is, Wite­hira says it’s a process more than a vis­ual.

“It’s a prag­matic process too. You get some people who talk about Māori de­sign in an eerie, spir­i­tual way which both­ers me as it’s al­most like art-speak which mys­ti­fies rather than clar­i­fies.”

He says for his own work he tries to ground things as much as pos­si­ble.

“There’s a lot of com­plex­ity in the process, it’s about re­la­tion­ships.”

For the cor­po­rate and com­mer­cial projects Wite­hira un­der­takes, he works with mana whenua groups.

“As a de­signer I can re­spond to the client brief but also have the as­pi­ra­tions of mana whenua … the client comes with the brief, what I do is find Māori par­al­lels and take them to mana whenua to dis­cuss and to talk about which sto­ries they want, or feel com­fort­able, shar­ing.”

Through his work at Unitec, Wite­hira il­lus­trated the process to his stu­dents on a project called 'Inside the Aotearoa House'.

It looked to dis­rupt the sta­tus quo of Euro­cen­tric po­si­tion­ing in ed­u­ca­tion by bring­ing both Māori con­tent and tikanga Māori into ter­tiary level stud­ies – and ask­ing the stu­dents to bring their own tikanga with them.

“It was around try­ing to con­sider what the inside of our homes might look and func­tion if de­signed from bi-cul­tural per­spec­tive,” says Wite­hira. “We bought to­gether five or six dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines [within Unitec] - from fine arts to con­tem­po­rary craft to spa­tial de­sign - de­vel­op­ing ideas, con­cepts and things that might ex­ist in our homes.”

He says Māori sto­ries and nar­ra­tives were used to help and in­spire de­sign in­stead of putting Māori de­sign on things, with part of the chal­lenge there was to be no koru.

A no­table ex­am­ple he gave was of a stu­dent who de­signed a lamp based on the myth of Maui pulling up and ma­nip­u­lat­ing the sun, a semi-cir­cu­lar struc­ture where one pulls on the chord to turn on the bulb as if they are in the place of Maui.

Wite­hira says he thinks the stu­dents, and some of the staff, thought he was go­ing to teach them ‘Māori de­sign’, “but re­ally we taught them to start think­ing in the Māori way and re­search­ing the Māori world…they just started de­sign­ing things from a Māori per­spec­tive.”

For Wite­hira, though he is now work­ing on big projects which he says are “very good aspirational projects putting a vi­sion out there”, he thinks where de­sign changes us and re­flects who we are back to us is the ev­ery­day stuff – be it a type­face or a tooth­brush.

“It’s the ba­nal, mun­dane stuff we use and in­ter­act with. For most de­sign­ers those are very un­sexy things – to me those are more im­por­tant be­cause we en­gage with them ev­ery day.”

Stop, col­lab­o­rate and lis­ten

Re­la­tion­ships were an im­por­tant point men­tioned again and again as in­te­gral as much to Māori de­sign as to tikanga and iden­tity.

In­ter­na­tional bi-an­nual art and de­sign pub­li­ca­tion, Threaded Mag­a­zine, pro­files and show­cases emerg­ing de­sign tal­ent along­side es­tab­lished stu­dios and de­sign­ers, both in New Zealand and over­seas.

Kyra Clarke, Threaded’s de­sign di­rec­tor, says the team works with iwi and el­ders, as well as people close to them to

I had [a cor­po­rate] client want­ing a logo, want­ing a koru, and I went back to them ask­ing why they wanted that par­tic­u­larly de­sign, if they knew the mean­ing be­hind it? They don’t nec­es­sar­ily care about the mean­ing–it’ s just a re- ap­pro­pri­a­ton of which they liked the look of. Kyra Clarke ————

en­sure au­then­tic­ity in their projects.

“I seek coun­sel a lot from [artist, de­signer and di­rec­tor] Desna Whaan­gaS­chol­lum and from [crafts­man, sculp­tor and de­sign ed­u­ca­tor] Carin Wil­son and from Ngā Aho [the so­ci­ety/net­work of Māori de­sign pro­fes­sion­als]. If we had crazy ideas we’d run it by them or my cousin or mum who bring their knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence.” Clarke says the lat­est edi­tion of

Threaded Mag­a­zine, Edi­tion 20, was ex­clu­sively ded­i­cated to Māori art, de­sign and mahi toi [art/craft] dis­course.

Its theme was ‘New Be­gin­nings’, cen­tered around Matariki, and the no­tion of ac­knowl­edg­ing past, present and fu­ture, fea­tur­ing in­dige­nous prac­ti­tion­ers such as Janet Lilo, Lisa Rei­hana and Lon­nie Hutchin­son.

“We def­i­nitely had chal­lenges with artists, trans­lat­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of their work or prac­tice in to print – we had to set our own kawa (cus­toms) for this project, com­mu­ni­cat­ing along the way with the artists so they trusted how it was be­ing rep­re­sented,” says Clarke.

She says the cat­a­lyst for Edi­tion 20 was 16/2, a project Threaded was asked to do for Fedrigoni, an Ital­ian pa­per mer­chant.

With an open-ended brief, some­thing says Clarke was quite daunt­ing, the only pre-req­ui­site was that it rep­re­sented New Zealand in some way.

“Our coun­try is so di­verse it was like ‘what do we do?’ So, we tried to go back to the essence of who we were, where we came from. I’m part-Māori and we had people that were non-Māori in the stu­dio at the time, but it was that col­lab­o­ra­tion and our jour­ney to­gether ex­plor­ing that, to rep­re­sent our cul­ture in a way that other people may get a nice in­tro­duc­tion that was guided.”

Clarke says for 16/2 the team talked to el­ders as there were lots of myths or sto­ries that weren’t able to be found on­line, and she re­ally wanted to have a con­nec­tion to the land, to where she came from, and to ob­jects that rep­re­sented some­thing im­por­tant within their lives and the stu­dio.

“For 16/2, tak­ing tra­di­tional el­e­ments of Māori cul­ture/iden­tity, and mak­ing it con­tem­po­rary we pushed that more in Edi­tion 20. We were ex­plor­ing that no­tion – line work, lin­ear work, mo­tifs – and we open with same karakia in 16/2 as we do in Edi­tion 20. In Māori cul­ture it’s the use of rep­e­ti­tion that makes things strong.”

Clarke says a col­lab­o­ra­tive process oc­curs when work­ing with Māori clients.

“We’ve re­branded a marae and two hapu and those are very dif­fer­ent ap­proaches be­cause you’re talk­ing to the kau­matua, talk­ing to the people. They walk with their de­sign and any­one can con­test it – it’s to be chal­lenged or be ac­cepted, that’s the way it works.”

She says it can be tough work­ing with clients who don’t un­der­stand cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion.

“I had [a cor­po­rate] client want­ing a logo, want­ing a koru, and I went back to them ask­ing why they wanted that par­tic­u­larly de­sign, if they knew the mean­ing be­hind it? They don’t nec­es­sar­ily care about the mean­ing – it’s just a re-ap­pro­pri­a­ton of a Māori de­sign of which they liked the look of.”

Clarke adds she has had to let clients go who are not pre­pared to go through a proper brand­ing ex­er­cise to de­ter­mine a vis­ual so­lu­tion/out­come.

A mat­ter of prin­ci­ple

Crafts­man, sculp­tor and de­sign ed­u­ca­tor Carin Wil­son lives in a beau­ti­ful home that dou­bles as his stu­dio in Pukeruru, just past Man­gawhai.

Wil­son is a former pres­i­dent and fel­low of the De­signer’s In­sti­tute of New Zealand, was the found­ing chair of Ngā Aho and is an hon­orary holder of Toi Iho, the qual­ity mark for Māori Arts (he also carved the wood that is fea­tured on this is­sue’s cover).

The off­spring of a Māori fa­ther and Ital­ian mother, Wil­son was one of many in­volved in the es­tab­lish­ment of a set of seven prin­ci­ples, or guide­lines, called the Te Aranga Māori De­sign Prin­ci­ples.

The prin­ci­ples were de­vel­oped by Māori de­sign pro­fes­sion­als in 2006 as a re­sponse to the New Zealand Ur­ban De­sign Pro­to­col pub­lished by the Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment in 2005.

“Un­til that time New Zealand re­lied on the Min­istry to de­ter­mine for us what the def­i­ni­tion of place was. We looked at them and went ‘no way’ and if it isn’t, what do we have to es­tab­lish in its place?” says Wil­son.

The seven prin­ci­ples – Mana (ran­gati­ratanga – author­ity), Whaka­papa (names and nam­ing), Ta­iao (the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment), Mauri Tu (en­vi­ron­men­tal health), Mahi Toi (cre­ative ex­pres­sion), Tohu (the wider cul­tural land­scape) and Ahi Kā (liv­ing pres­ence) – are founded on in­trin­sic Māori cul­tural val­ues and,

as per the Auck­land De­sign Man­ual from the Auck­land Coun­cil, “de­signed to pro­vide prac­ti­cal guid­ance for en­hanc­ing out­comes for the de­sign en­vi­ron­ment”.

They are now ap­plied by Auck­land Coun­cil, mana whenua author­i­ties, pri­vate de­vel­op­ers, and sev­eral ar­chi­tec­ture firms, in­clud­ing Jas­max, War­ren & Ma­honey, Woods Bagot and NH Ar­chi­tec­ture.

Wil­son says the prin­ci­ples are be­gin­ning to in­flu­ence the way de­sign and place is thought about and have been ad­hered to for award-win­ning spa­ces like Toi o Tā­maki (Auck­land Art Gallery) and Te Oro (the Glen Innes Mu­sic and Arts Cen­tre).

“How do we de­fine place? In a Māori sense it’s the idea of en­gage­ment and be­long­ing.”

One ar­chi­tec­ture firm that’s abid­ing by the Te Aranga Prin­ci­ples is RCG Lim­ited. As­so­ciate di­rec­tor Andy Florkowski and di­rec­tor John Leni­han point to RCG’s project Wai Ariki – a lux­ury spa and well­ness cen­ter that will be lo­cated on the Ro­torua lake­front with a Te Ao Māori fo­cus – as a good ex­am­ple of com­bin­ing the old with the new.

Ngāti Whakaue nar­ra­tives and el­e­ments of Te Arawa and Māori cul­ture will be through­out the de­vel­op­ment, both in the de­sign of the build­ing, as well as in its spa and well­ness of­fer­ings.

The spa is be­ing de­vel­oped by Pukeroa Oru­awhata Trust, which RCG shares a 25-year re­la­tion­ship with, in con­junc­tion with spa and well­ness provider Bel­gravia Leisure.

With Wai Ariki to show­case iwi Ngāti Whakaue’s legacy and Ro­torua’s famed spa her­itage, Florkowski says one of the first things RCG did was put for­ward that it would fol­low the Te Aranga Prin­ci­ples.

“The prin­ci­ples recog­nise the in­put of all par­ties. It’s not just the out­put, it’s the process you go through, it’s a thread that starts at the very be­gin­ning of a process,” says Florkowski.

He says the prin­ci­ples imbed the re­la­tion­ship with the land and people into the work.

“It’s about recog­nis­ing and re­spect­ing ev­ery­one in­volved, en­vi­ron­men­tally, so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally.”

As Leni­han and Florkowski are nonMāori, they said the way they ap­proach a project is cru­cial.

“[The] process and the way we fol­low cer­tain meth­ods is ex­tremely

and you’re not l i ving within that cul­ture, you have to be re­spect­ful and not i mpose, or bor­row some­thing without un­der­stand­ing i ts full mean­ing. John Leni­han ————

im­por­tant, and to recog­nise that. There are lots of voices in­volved in these types of projects, and it’s im­por­tant to lis­ten to all,” says Leni­han.

“De­sign is quite tricky be­cause if you’re not Māori and you’re not liv­ing within that cul­ture, you have to be re­spect­ful and not im­pose, or bor­row some­thing without un­der­stand­ing its full mean­ing.”

Leni­han says there is al­ways a lot of dis­cus­sion and re­search re­quired to get that un­der­stand­ing.

“Some of it is quite ab­stract and em­bed­ded into the de­sign and some of it is more dec­o­ra­tive and lit­eral, and when we get into the dec­o­ra­tive and lit­eral we get into us­ing Māori artists, crafts people and de­sign­ers.”

He says RCG’s role is work­ing to­gether with iwi on the jour­ney.

“They are ef­fec­tively mak­ing the de­ci­sions and you’re just guid­ing them. [Wai Ariki] be­comes an em­bod­i­ment of the people, the process and the sto­ries, which has an out­put through ar­chi­tec­ture.”

Leni­han says the lo­cally hired staff will help form the iden­tity of Wai Ariki.

“The people who are go­ing to run the fa­cil­i­ties will help com­mu­ni­cate the sto­ries of Te Arawa. This is def­i­nitely a liv­ing in­sti­tu­tion, it’s con­tem­po­rary, and will take on its own story as it goes.”

For Wite­hira, while he thinks the Te Aranga prin­ci­ples are “re­ally use­ful and a re­ally good start”, he says that he thinks there needs to be more local iwi-spe­cific, and de­sign-spe­cific ver­sions of that text.

And he has de­cided to do some­thing about it, es­tab­lish­ing with two friends in De­cem­ber last year an or­gan­i­sa­tion called In­dige­nous De­sign and In­no­va­tion Aotearoa (IDIA) de­signed to cre­ate in­dige­nous so­lu­tions to com­mer­cial, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

On IDIA’S web­site it states: “Through our mahi we aim to sup­port in­dige­nous growth and ex­cel­lence and push back against the ho­mogenis­ing and colonis­ing ef­fects of glob­al­i­sa­tion and tech­nol­ogy.”

Wite­hira says one of the projects the team is work­ing on is an Aotearoa in­dige­nous de­sign char­ter to pro­vide ba­sic guide­lines for any­one want­ing to en­gage with Māori de­sign in a broad way.

“Then we are want­ing to do more prag­matic guide­lines, or more spe­cific - i.e. I’m a prod­uct de­signer or a spa­tial de­signer, what are things I need to know? What are sto­ries I should I look at to in­form my prac­tices? We’re look­ing to de­velop these kinds of guide­lines and re­sources for de­sign­ers in New Zealand, not just Māori.”

Pay­ing homage but tran­scend­ing tra­di­tion

How do de­sign­ers mix tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary while re­tain­ing cul­tural mean­ing and iden­tity? How do we dis­play deep mean­ings without just slapping a koru on some­thing or wa­ter­ing it down for tourists?

Carin Wil­son’s art­work at the new Māori tele­vi­sion of­fice in Auck­land is one ex­am­ple of weav­ing cul­ture with mod­ern-day de­sign.

Work­ing with RCG, Wil­son, who was the art di­rec­tor of the orig­i­nal Māori Tele­vi­sion of­fice cre­ated in 2004, came back on board to cre­ate new art­work for the space.

One piece was a sculp­ture cre­ated for the re­cep­tion area called ‘Te Haerenga’, a four-pan­elled con­tem­po­rary take on a tuku­tuku (lat­tice­work pan­els) and stemmed from the idea of a wakahuia (trea­sure or feather box).

“The whole dig­i­tal de­con­struc­tion of a tra­di­tional piece of tuku­tuku, it’s icono­graphic in the sense that you’ll al­ways see that panel de­sign in a Maori wharenui. There’s a small group of tuku­tuku de­signs that ev­ery weaver learns,” Wil­son says. “We took tuku­tuku and looked at dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als, the build­ing and colours and so on, fig­ured out a way to recre­ate the tuku­tuku mo­tif but bring it into a com­pletely con­tem­po­rary id­iom.”

First im­pres­sions

Threaded’s Clarke has re­cently moved home, back up north from Auck­land. And when Māori clients ask her to see them for a ko­rero about projects, she says she won­ders what they will think when they see her.

“I do feel anx­ious that I don't look Māori. Hope­fully our work tran­scends their first ini­tial per­cep­tions.”

She says get­ting the sto­ries and rep­re­sen­ta­tion right without look­ing 'to­ken' is a big thing.

“…be­cause they [iwi] walk with it and be­cause it will be chal­lenged by people. Once it’s ac­cepted it feels like the big­gest suc­cess, you’re ac­tu­ally see­ing people use it. It’s def­i­nitely a sense of pride.”

Ask­ing Clarke if she feels pres­sure and re­spon­si­bil­ity, she says she does but con­cen­trates on the job at hand.

“You have to ex­tract the in­for­ma­tion that is im­por­tant and make sure you’re rep­re­sent­ing that graph­i­cally. It’s just usu­ally more spir­i­tual and usu­ally more ‘real’. I can’t ex­plain it, and it’s usu­ally the work we’re most proud of.”

Wite­hira says he ac­knowl­edges in his mahi his Māori and Pākehā an­ces­try.

“It’s not just about mak­ing things more Māori for me, it’s about bring­ing bal­ance to this dream that some of our an­ces­tors had of Māori and Pākehā com­ing to­gether in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and both of us ben­e­fit­ting from it. Ob­vi­ously, that hasn’t played out as well as it could have, but for me it’s about bring­ing de­sign into our daily life.”

For the Aotearoa House project, Wite­hira says the stu­dents – of which the ma­jor­ity were Pākehā - ex­plored their own sense of iden­tity through en­gag­ing with Māori cul­ture.

“Ev­ery­one wants to fig­ure out what their iden­tity is, es­pe­cially if you’re Pākehā – ‘I’m not Bri­tish, I’m not Euro­pean, I’m not tan­gata whena – there’s a lot of com­plex­ity around iden­tity. That said that if you are a New Zealan­der, Māori cul­ture is a part of who you are. The sooner you ac­cept that and get com­fort­able with that, the eas­ier it is be­ing a New Zealan­der.”

Pākehā are of­ten con­sid­ered and con­cerned with en­gag­ing with Māori around de­sign, says Wite­hira.

“They don’t want to do it in­ap­pro­pri­ately, do it the wrong way.

Fear holds people back – both for Māori and Pākehā. I’m ur­ban Māori and people as­sume I’m a na­tive speaker – only seek­ing out Māori de­sign did I be­came en­gaged with my cul­ture. I went through things – lan­guage learn­ing, etc – to help me feel com­fort­able.”

Cul­tural cringe

There was a huge out­cry when Amer­i­can pop­star Ri­hanna got a Māori-in­spired tat­too in 2013, done the tra­di­tional way, with chisel and mal­let. Mike Tyson, Rob­bie Wil­liams and Ben Harper have also all had Māori-in­spired de­signs while in New Zealand.

This push­back picks up on im­por­tant ques­tion to do with iden­tity and cul­ture: who is able to get, or dis­play, de­signs, such as Ta Moko, es­pe­cially if they have with no knowl­edge of the de­sign, sig­nif­i­cance or tools used? And how do we en­sure Māori her­itage and cul­ture is pre­served cor­rectly. Clarke says this a re­ally hard ques­tion. “My own opin­ion is that you can’t pre­serve it, that once you put some­thing out there any­one can take it, reap­pro­pri­ate it and re­use it. Look at Rob­bie Wil­liams and Ri­hanna’s tat­toos – if people say it’s not their right to have one, what if they come here and have an ex­pe­ri­ence?” She gives the ex­am­ple of the 2016 film

Moana as an ex­am­ple of Poly­ne­sian/Māori de­sign and el­e­ments be­ing mis­used.

“They’ve gone on Pin­ter­est, taken lots of el­e­ments and used [them] the wrong way but they tried and what can you do? As long as we’re true to our­selves and lis­ten to the clients and vis­ually rep­re­sent what they are ask­ing, we can only talk through the projects we’ve worked on.”

An in­ter­est­ing point brought up by Dr Wite­hira dur­ing our dis­cus­sions was in re­la­tion to Māori cul­tural ad­vi­sors.

He says when he started graphic de­sign school he couldn’t find any Māori de­sign role mod­els.

“Where I found what we might call ‘so­phis­ti­cated de­sign’ was done by Pākehā de­sign­ers with Māori cul­tural ad­vi­sors.”

He says what’s prob­lem­atic is that nor­mally the cul­tural ad­vi­sors might be flu­ent in Māori, may have grown up in a Māori com­mu­nity or en­vi­ron­ment but they might not know any­thing about Māori art or de­sign.

“There’s the as­sump­tion as I’m Māori, so I know Māori de­sign. Of­ten, I think their back­grounds aren’t the right ones to be bring­ing into these projects but it’s still the norm for de­sign agen­cies … the people that should be in the roles should be the ones with Māori art, ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign back­grounds or iwi in­volved in the project – the mana whenua. They are the ones who are giv­ing me ad­vice, the sto­ries they want to share and feel com­fort­able shar­ing.”

Wite­hira says to im­prove this sit­u­a­tion he be­lieves there needs to be more sup­port and schol­ar­ships for Māori to en­gage in de­sign; to “present young Māori with op­por­tu­ni­ties for dif­fer­ent fu­tures”.

Space to grow

Look­ing at the New Zealand busi­ness scene, com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly ded­i­cat­ing space – both lit­eral and men­tal – to Māori de­sign and un­der­stand­ing the im­por­tance of in­te­grat­ing Māori cul­ture into the busi­ness.

One ex­am­ple is ar­chi­tec­ture firm War­ren & Ma­honey, which set up Te Matakīrea – the ad­vanced Māori

It’s not j ust about mak­ing things more about bring­ing bal­ance to this dream that some of our an­ces­tors to­gether i n Aotearoa, New Zealand, and both of us ben­e­fit­ting from i t. Ob­vi­ously, that hasn’t played out as well as i t could have, but for me i t’s about bring­ing de­sign i nto our daily l i fe. Dr John­son Wite­hira

De­sign Unit – in 2016 with the help of Ngata Tapsell.

The goal of Te Matakīrea is to ex­plore ar­chi­tec­tural op­por­tu­ni­ties “that are am­bi­tious, mod­ern and yet thor­oughly grounded in the Māori world”, en­sur­ing Māori val­ues and ideas are em­bed­ded within projects from day one.

The unit has worked on projects so far for He Puna Karikari (Lin­coln Hub) in Christchurch and Te Waonui O Te Mā­tau­ranga (Manukau In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy) and is made up of what Tapsell says is a true cross-sec­tion of mod­ern New Zealand.

Tapsell, an as­so­ciate at the firm, worked in­ter­na­tion­ally for 12 years be­fore re­turn­ing home with ideas and ex­pe­ri­ences from work­ing on projects for a num­ber of in­dige­nous and nonWestern cul­tures.

He says one of the great chal­lenges he faced upon his re­turn was how does his cul­ture, with 1000-odd years of his­tory in New Zealand, em­brace the mod­ern world in a way that is grounded in that his­tory and tra­di­tion, but not re­strained by it?

“If a cul­ture does not grow to em­brace the new and un­known, it risks ir­rel­e­vance.”

Keen to ex­plore the deep­est con­cep­tual un­der­pin­nings of Te Ao Māori, their ar­chi­tec­tural im­pli­ca­tions and their rel­e­vance in the mod­ern world, Tapsell wants Te Matakīrea to ask the dif­fi­cult ques­tions about what it means to be Māori or in­deed a New Zealan­der in 2018 and be­yond.

“We should be chal­leng­ing our clients to think of ar­chi­tec­ture as an op­por­tu­nity for cul­tural growth … to us, the Māori world view is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to New Zealand’s ar­chi­tec­tural iden­tity.”

While the unit is new, Tapsell is quick to say Te Matakīrea is not a box-tick­ing ex­er­cise for War­ren and Ma­honey.

“As a prac­tice we feel a great re­spon­si­bil­ity to ad­vance New Zealand so­cially and cul­tur­ally through ar­chi­tec­ture, and to do that we need to be push­ing some bound­aries … Our fo­cus is on new de­sign out­comes for a new world, while un­der­stand­ing and re­spect­ing the jour­ney to date. It’s a big chal­lenge but we have a team of tal­ented and driven in­di­vid­u­als who are up to the task.”

Air New Zealand and De­sign­works took home the Ngā Aho Award at the 2017 Best Awards for Te Tohu, a pin meant to iden­tify te reo Māori speak­ers in the cabin crew.

The De­sign­works team chose a tra­di­tional carver’s ap­proach melded with mod­ern de­sign, with a waha (mouth) meant to sig­nify the oral ori­gins of te reo Māori, while still leav­ing the over­all de­sign open to in­di­vid­ual in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Much of the Tohu was de­signed by ex­pert carver Clive Fugill at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts In­sti­tute, Te Puia, in Ro­torua, with the process of com­mis­sion­ing and launch­ing the pins tak­ing about a year and in­volv­ing part­ner­ships with groups in­clud­ing Te Taura Whiri i te reo Māori (the Māori Lan­guage Com­mis­sion).

An­drew Baker, Air New Zealand’s cul­tural de­vel­op­ment man­ager, told Idea­log in Novem­ber that the de­sign col­lab­o­ra­tion will hope­fully help pre­serve the very bedrock of Aotearoa’s cul­ture.

“The Tohu is not only a sym­bol to iden­tify te reo Māori speak­ers, but also one that ac­knowl­edges the im­por­tance of te reo Māori to us all, and cham­pion its growth and pros­per­ity into the fu­ture. This project high­lighted the fun­da­men­tal role that de­sign has to play in pro­tect­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing our New Zealand iden­tity.”

In the pub­lish­ing arena The Spinoff launched Ātea, a ded­i­cated Māori per­spec­tives sec­tion on its site in Oc­to­ber last year. Ed­i­tor Leonie Hay­den spoke to

StopPress two weeks af­ter the launch, ex­plain­ing that as Ātea’s mis­sion is to have the in­dige­nous per­spec­tive as the de­fault, all con­trib­u­tors will be Māori, or iden­tify strongly with Māori com­mu­ni­ties.

When asked her thoughts on Māori rep­re­sen­ta­tion in main­stream me­dia, Hay­den says she sees it as a “two steps for­ward, one step back” type sit­u­a­tion.

She says while main­stream me­dia can have the best of in­ten­tions, “an­nounc­ing they will spell te reo Māori cor­rectly by us­ing macrons”, they then use the free­dom of speech, “to de­fend their right to pub­lish racist car­toons.”

How­ever, Hay­den says there is progress be­ing made.

“Dur­ing Māori Lan­guage Week there is amaz­ing con­tent be­ing pro­duced all around the coun­try, and once it’s over you see Māori com­men­ta­tors and dif­fer­ent people be­ing used. Each time you do see a tiny im­prove­ment, yet we are all re­spon­si­ble for a big im­prove­ment.”

She com­mended RNZ, in par­tic­u­lar Morn­ing Re­port pre­sen­ter Guyon Espiner, for us­ing te reo, say­ing “a non-Māori broad­caster us­ing reo, it’s nor­mal­is­ing it for people”. RNZ has taken stand and com­mit­ted to us­ing the lan­guage. And the cur­rent de­bate over mak­ing te reo Māori com­pul­sory in schools shows that New Zealan­ders are at least think­ing about the is­sue – and recog­nis­ing the cul­ture.

He Tan­gata, he tan­gata, he tan­gata Col­lab­o­ra­tion, process, re­spect and telling sto­ries are all in­te­gral parts of Maori de­sign and iden­tity in New Zealand.

Clarke be­lieves that em­brac­ing the mod­ern and of­fer­ing work that has a con­tem­po­rary twist is the fu­ture.

“You can look at most other Māori de­sign­ers that are push­ing the bound­aries – people like John­son Wite­hira, Lisa Rei­hana and Shane Hansen – they are re­ally try­ing to op­er­ate in a space that is pay­ing homage to, but tran­scend­ing, tra­di­tion.”

Wite­hira him­self sums it up nicely: “We may look back to Europe and Amer­ica – I look to those two too be­cause I love their de­sign – but if we want to find our­selves we have to find it here.”

Rest of page: Threaded Edi­tion 20.

Top left: A project Threaded Stu­dio did for Fedrigoni, an Ital­ian pa­per mer­chant. (see page 40 for more images)

Top left: John­son Wite­hira's Noise­walls for NZTA, Photo: Jared Clark. Bot­tom right: Jour­ney of the Sun lamp by Jango Van Rijk. Rest of page: Carin Wil­son, his work 'Te Haerenga' for Māori Tele­vi­sion's new build­ing and his stu­dio.

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