EPISODE SUMMARY: In part two of our story on the Imagining Decolonised Cities project, we talk to some of the practitioners who were involved in a day-long, free public hui held at Takapūwāhia Marae in Porirua which invited public dialogue on the question - "what is a decolonised city?"
GUESTS: Lena Henry, Rebecca Kiddle
Jade Kake v/o: Our urban landscapes in Aotearoa New Zealand have been arranged and disciplined according to colonial values which favour private over communal land ownership. For mana whenua living in what have become urban environments, the city rose up around them, their land base eroded rapidly, acre by acre. They were pushed out, often forcibly. New Zealand has a long history of seeking to contain and erase indigeneity in urban places, swiftly quashing any assertions of Māori sovereignty in the urban environment. The occupation of Takaparawhau in 1977 and the 1995 occupation of Moutoa Gardens are both notable examples in New Zealand history.
So what is a decolonised city anyway? And why does it matter?
Tēnā koutou katoa
Nau mai haere mai ki te Indigenous Urbanism, Aotearoa Edition, Episode 19.
I’m your host Jade Kake and this is Indigenous Urbanism, stories about the spaces we inhabit, and the community drivers and practitioners who are shaping those environments and decolonising through design.
On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, part two of our story on the Imagining Decolonised Cities project, we talk to some of the practitioners who were involved in a day-long, free public hui held at Takapūwāhia Marae in Porirua which invited public dialogue on the question - "what is a decolonised city?"
The Imagining Decolonised Cities project was initiated by a team of academics from Victoria University of Wellington and members of Ngāti Toa Rangatira to stimulate discussion around what our cities might be like in the future if they were decolonised.
We spoke with Lena Henry, nō Ngāti Hine, a lecturer in planning at the University of Auckland, and one of the speakers at the symposium.
Lena Henry: I te taha o tōku pāpā, ko Otamaewa te maunga, ko Mahururoa te awa, ko Ngāti Toro te hapū, ko Ngāpuhi te iwi. Nō te kāinga Otaua. Ko Piki Te Aroha te marae. I te taha o tōku māmā, nō Ngāti Hine, ko Hineamaru te rangatira. Āe. Ko au tenei. Lena Henry.
JK: So as part of the Imagining Decolonised Cities project in Porirua, there was a one day symposium at Takapūwāhia Marae, that really just encouraged people to think about 'what is a decolonised city?' and what might it be like, and what is the process to get there? And there was a wide range of speakers talking about their mahi, and reflecting on that provocation. I just wondered if you could perhaps share some of your whakaaro around that topic? I think it was a really cool thing to provoke people to think and talk about this idea of a decolonised city.
LH: So first of all, I really appreciated the privilege of being able to present some ideas. And I like to use these opportunities as a way to reflect back what communities have said to me in the past. And so, the actual kaupapa of decolonisation has been one that has been talked about for a long time, and I guess the adding onto that, decolonising cities, has been the new addition to the kōrero about decolonisation. So it was really about understanding 'what is decolonisation'? Because I think what we've tried to do, primarily, is to indigenise. And then decolonise really fits well with planning, because it's about the structural dimensions, as well as talking about, how do we reconstruct or reclaim the processes of planning, and develop policies that will provide the types of outcomes that we're looking at. So, what I talked about then was really looking at, what are the aspirations, that I know of? That would represent a decolonised city. And I quickly started off with an interaction or discussion I had with our then five year old, Toa. Toa Slavomir. Where he was, we were down on Queen St, waiting for Helen to finish work, and he looked up at these, he was just looking around his environment, and I was looking at my phone, and he said, he just said to me, 'why don't they like us?' And I sort of stopped, and put my phone away, and I thought, what have I missed? And I go, 'who doesn't like us?' And he goes, 'why don't they like Māori?' and I thought, have I missed something, is someone looking at us? And then I said, why do you ask that? And he just pointed up to the signs. So he goes to a rūmaki reo class called Whānau Ata down at Freeman's Bay, and he was learning how to read Māori. And so, obviously he's waiting and he's trying to engage with his environment, his urban environment, Queen St, and he just said, 'why don't they like Māori?' And he pointed up at this signs. He goes, 'there's no Māori words. I don't know how to read that.' And, so it really is apparent to, you know, a five year old, that their environment doesn't represent who they are, or their aspirations for fitting into these environments. So, I really started off with that, with quite an innocent child's perspective. And if we can hear from children again, at his age, really looking and feeling like they're engaged with the environment, and that they can see themselves reflected in their urban environment, then we're doing well. So I started off with that story, and I think that's going to be one of the indicators that we've reached a decolonised city, the imagined decolonised city, that we might set today.
JK: Māori have been historically categorised as rural, but as we know the majority of our populations do live in cities, and I think there's starting to be a shift in thinking about what constitutes a Māori space. It's not just our marae and our papakāinga - which of course are important - but it's much wider than that, it extends into our landscape, it extends into our cities. And I suppose with these thoughts in mind, I wanted to ask, for those of us who are perhaps not mana whenua, who are built environment practitioners, what impact does that have on the way we approach our work, and the relationships we have with people and place.
LH: For me, there's now a formal category around 'what is mana whenua?' And, how I always approach it, I mean we go through reframing what this actually means, but, for me, it's always trying to find the connection. As opposed to differentiating and identifying what you're not, I think it's identifying how you connect. So for me, there's tātai that I have been taught, or I've listened to and just heard in discussion around the tātai, the connections between us to our cousins here in Tāmaki Makaurau. And so, what that says to me is that, yes I've got these connections, and wherever we are, we should support the tangata whenua, the hapū, the iwi, mana whenua of that particular rohe. And, in terms of being a resident, a Māori resident, a Ngāpuhi person living in Tāmaki Makaurau, it doesn't mean that we're second class citizens. And that's what I fear about those differentiations around those categories, is that the way in which it is interpreted by institutions, start creating a separation, as opposed to what whakapapa should do, is to make these connections. That's why we get up, and we talk about our pepeha. We're trying to seek connection, as well as identify where we're from and how proud we are to be of that whakapapa. So, I'm very much into, like, not buying into legal frameworks of who we are and who we're not. I think the needs, the rights of participation, the rights to decision making, are clear within tīkanga, about our role. So I don't know about the deep heritage, the cultural significance, of areas that mana whenua will talk about. I know things about, say, a particular site, or a place. I do know some things. But I don't know that, and it's not my connection. So what I've always taught our students is to approach it in an inclusionary, as opposed to exclusionary, way. So what I have to offer, or anyone else has to offer, is adding to the decisions. It's not saying, that's more valid than that. It's more like, what does this person have to offer, in terms of what planning decisions, or what decisions are being made, as opposed to how a non-Māori approach would be, in terms of trying to build hierarchies consistently. So we're okay with multiple names on one site, and that's just an example of how we should operate in terms of connections and valid contributions to information being gathered about a particular site. So, that's how I approach it anyway. Yes, mana whenua have, definitely have a significant contribution to how we plan our cities, but so do others, other Māori living in these areas. Especially in this Treaty settlement era, where whakapapa is used to distinguish what's yours and what's not. So pulling back from that is just to go back to tīkanga, and we know that, when we go to pōwhiri, and we hear a mihimihi, somebody will talk about the connections, that they have or their iwi have, or the group has to that place. And so, I think just going back to tīkanga and what we observe still, those very basic traditions, will keep us in good stead.
JK: The kaupapa of the podcast is Indigenous Urbanism, and I just wanted to invite you, if you had any final thoughts on that theme, or anything you wanted to talk about.
LH: This idea around Indigenous Urbanism, you referred to it in the beginning about not separating rural to urban. Those categories really have derived from where our planning system has been imported from, and that's the British model, the UK system of planning, where they, you know, the whole Ebenezer Howard and all of those theorists around City planning. I believe what we can contribute to these environments, is maintaining a sense of kaitiakitanga, so the concrete jungle still has connections and, is still mindful of Papatūānuku, and the other flora, fauna, the environment that we share it with. The birds and all that, like making sure that we're still looking at our connections, our wider connections, as opposed to 'cities are for people.' And so, I think we bring that to how we plan cities in Aotearoa New Zealand. I believe that the value of whakaaro Māori or te ao Māori perspectives has yet really to be realised, because we're not at the table, we're not designing the policies, and the practices and processes to gather those roots. But, you know, we just want basic things, like go down to the harbour. That Ngāti Whātua and their children can go down and pick from their own harbour. Kai moana, that they can go eeling in their own backyard. We still get to do that up home, and we shouldn't take that for granted. But those are the same things, those are the same aspirations, the City grew up around them. And it's a real issue. But we have to be constantly, and vigilant, around maintaining those types of experiences. Because if we disconnect, if we don't allow our children to have those relationships, that's where the mātauranga comes from. It's in our whakataukī. For example, proverbs that I've heard, I wasn't able to connect with them immediately. So, went to this hui, a Ngāti Hine hui, and Percy Tipene actually talked about this issue as being one likened to how you cook tuna - in time it will become clear. And I thought - he said this all in Māori of course - and when I spoke to my mum, I was like, what does he mean by that? And she said, well when you cook tuna, it's all cloudy, then you keep cooking it, and the water turns clear. Now how would we be able to relate to that type of whakataukī, if we don't allow ourselves or children to have that experience of valuing kai, valuing how it's caught, and valuing how it's cooked that way. So, yeah, I mean it's a real challenge, but I think that's really the main agenda, is that we are able to really be Māori because we understand these whakataukī, we understand the importance of our connection with the manu, and the environment, etc. and how we ensure that that continues, in a concrete jungle.
JK v/o: At the end of the project, we asked Rebecca Kiddle if her thinking on decolonisation had changed as result of initiating and participating in this very public dialogue.
Rebecca Kiddle: So the definition that we put forward had two components to it. The first one was around identity, and that being mana whenua or the local iwi's identity, being important to be able to see in that landscape. So, often the phrase 'seeing our faces in these places' is thrown around. That kind of thing - how do we make sure that this looks like a Māori city, or a Ngāti Toa city in this case, given it was Porirua. So that's one part of the identity, one part of the definition for me. The second part was around justice, really. And that, for me that's not just about mana whenua, but that's about mana whenua and mataawaka, everyone who is Māori that lives in the city, that experiences some level of disadvantage, which tends to be because they are Māori and have had to suffer the impacts of colonisation. To put it very simply. But I think, what was highlighted to me in seeing some of the responses to this, is that I don't think we can just look to the past for answers. So I think that's of course a really important part of this, we do have to be grounded and rooted in the histories of this place, but we can't come up with something that just mimics what happened before, or looks exactly like that. We have to be thinking a bit more sophisticatedly about what decolonisation means. For now, and really start to think about, what are we really wanting? Is it about social and cultural justice? Well for me, it is. And so that is much more complex than building a pā site. And whilst I, you know, I'm not meaning to disparage those who propose that kind of thing, but merely to say that I think we need, we perhaps need to think about that, what was, and take principles from that, and work out what that means for now, and that could have a whole host of realisations.
JK: As built environment people, as architects and urban designers, and others who are working in that space, of course social justice should be at the core of what we do, but I think also with some pragmatism around the fact that design and architecture and planning alone won't result in reform of our social and economic systems, our political systems, but it has a kind of relationship to and a dialogue with. So there's a lot we can do, but we can’t do everything in that space.
RK: So, I think Māori have a lot of agency in cities. And I think whilst cities are sites of pain for many, they're also sites of opportunity, and I think that many Māori whānau have created their own spaces, despite the fact that colonial urban form hasn't necessarily supported the ways in which they wanted to live. And I think that's really important to recognise that agency that many Māori have shown and have. I also think that many Māori whānau influence Pākehā whānau, and Pākehā ways of doing things, and I think, if we recognise that, then we can go some way to influencing urban planning and design policy, because that's, in an urban design and planning policy that's rooted very much in this country. So yeah, I think those two things are a couple of things that I think it's important to recognise, which often aren't actually. We talk about the ways in which Māori have been colonised, which of course is important, but actually I think Māori have done a bit of influencing of their own, in terms of, in very subtle ways, in terms of influencing Pākehā ways of doing things. Yeah. So, I’m interested to explore that.
JK v/o: The Imagining Decolonised Cities project is a collaboration between Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Victoria University of Wellington. You can find out more about the project at idcities.co.nz.
Indigenous Urbanism Aotearoa Edition is a production of Te Matapihi. Sandy Wakefield does our sound recording, editing, and mixing. Our theme was composed by Thomas Burton. I’m Jade Kake, your host and Executive Producer.
For more information about today’s show and other episodes of Indigenous Urbanism go to indigenousurbanism.net. You can drop us a line at email@example.com. And if you like what you’re hearing, please give us a review or rating on iTunes.
Coming up next on Indigenous Urbanism, we speak with Dr Patrick Stewart. Patrick is a citizen of the Nisga'a Nation in NorthWestern B.C., and has been operating his architectural practice in Sto:lo territory in Chilliwack BC since 1995.
Patrick Stewart: To me our culture was ended violently. Our visual representation of our culture ended violently. Our houses were burnt, or smashed down. On our North coast, our totem poles were cut down and floated away to museums, all our regalia, our musical instruments, our clothing, were all bundled up and taken away. Because of that violence I think it's only appropriate that we put it back, in a way, violently, by building it. So that we put, I put totem poles in the city in front of my buildings, and I use traditional form, and I put it in the city, and I use the colours, the traditional colours and I put it in the City.