EPISODE SUMMARY: On this episode of Indigenous Urbanism, we visit Whangarei, Northland’s largest city to examine the role of carvers, visual artists and planners in creatively interpreting our cultural narratives and re-inscribing our identity as tangata whenua into the urban fabric.
GUESTS: Bernadette Aperahama, Te Warihi Hetaraka, David Badham
Jade Kake: Whangarei-Terenga-Paraoa. Named for the meeting place of the chiefs, and the historic waiting place of Reipae. But when you look around Whangarei City, there isn’t much that locates us and reflects our identity as tangata whenua.
Bernadette Aperahama: I don’t see that Whangarei, visually, looks like a Māori City. I mean the people, of course. It's not represented in the built environment, and that's sad to me. It must sad for our people, and it must sad for our tangata whenua. How do they see themselves in the actual City?
JK: That was Bernadette Aperahama, nō Ngāti kahu ki Whangaroa raua ko Te Arawa. Bernadette is a planner living and working in Whangarei.
BA: I think there is quite a lot to change in terms of how we enable Māori to be represented in this whole district, from an actual governance representation in our political landscape within local government, all the way through staff, within government agencies, seeing more Māori faces in here, and building the capacity of staff to work with Māori, all the way through to having in a proactive space a values system, and having our tangata whenua represented in the entire spectrum. We’re really lacking in that
I don’t see Māori in the built environment, if that's where the focus is. and I don't think the hau kāinga would see themselves in the built environment. And I don't think our hau kāinga would see themselves having much influence at this stage through the entire development of what this City looks.
JK: Tēnā koutou katoa
Nau mai haere mai ki te Indigenous Urbanism, Aotearoa Edition, Episode three.
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 we visit Whangarei, Northland’s largest city, to examine the role of carvers, visual artists and planners in creatively re-interpreting our cultural narratives and re-inscribing our identity as tangata whenua into the urban fabric.
To learn more about the potential for expression of tangata whenua identity through public art, we sat down to have a kōrero with Tohunga Whakairo Te Warihi Hetaraka.
Te Warihi Hetaraka: Ko Te Warihi Hetaraka tōku nei ingoa. Nō Whangaruru au, ahau wā i tipu ake au ki Whangaruru i whānau i ahu kei Whangarei hōhipera. My name is Te Warihi. I'm from Whangaruru. I was born in Whangarei. So yeah, Te Uri o Hikihiki. Raised out in Whangaruru. Grew up there, then left home when I was sixteen to go to Rotorua to learn whakairo. I was chosen then. That's why that connection to all the tribes is important, because when I was sent away, I was sent to represent all of the tribes or hapū of Tai Tokerau.
It’s the re-establishing of our carved meeting houses and our marae complexes that will help us regain our identity as Māori, I feel. In fact, I know it will. And it was partly the reason why I was sent away, was to bring that back to Northland.
JK: We met with Te Warihi at the site of the proposed Hihiaua cultural centre, located on the Hihiaua Peninsula in central Whangarei. The project is slated to be a significant statement of tangata whenua identity in the City, and once complete, the precinct will include a performance stage, conference centre & theatre, and an exhibition hall. Currently there’s an existing boatshed on site, which houses an office and a carving workshop.
TWH: The idea of developing the cultural centre came from our rangatira and our elders, Whangarei back in the day. It first started around about 1980, but they didn't really start to talk about it until 1993, when they were developing the town basin. But the original people that raised it were Charlie Kake, Jimmy Pou, Violet Pou, Hane Kingi, Sissy Pitman. There was over forty or so kaumātua from around Whangarei. So those are just a few of the names of the elders, that's both Charlie and Ben of course, were involved at the beginning.
I think it was mostly because they saw that our younger generation weren't sort of involving themselves in their culture or their tikanga. But also that period too, kapa haka and all of that sort of stuff started to spring up. All the tikanga stuff started to drop off. So they saw the cultural centre, in their minds the cultural centre was a place where our people could re-establish their identity as Māori. It was in 1993 when the Council asked for Māori input to the development of the town basin, and it was there that the elders, our chiefs of that time, identified Hihaua - this part here, Hihiaua peninsula - as the site for a cultural centre.
I think the first job was to secure the building here, because it was closest to the site, and at that time, there was an old boat shed here and the people had just moved out. So we approached Council, and we've got a lease on it, a thirty year lease on it. So that's enough time to put something in place.
Work on the cultural centre is due to commence this year, with stage one focussing on the renovation of the existing building to include a workshop, learning and viewing spaces, and a specialist laboratory for marine and environmental research. A new waka shelter with launching gantry and a covered walkway will also be constructed.
The physical component of this project really began with the opening of the Waka and Wave Sculpture, and the Heritage Trail and Art Walk connecting the peninsula to the Town Basin.
Te Matau ā Pohe and Kotuitui Whitinga bridges followed, opening up the popular Hātea Loop Walkway.
These smaller public art projects are significant as currently, they’re the only visible manifestations of tangata whenua identity in the Whangarei urban environment.
TWH: Things are starting to happen, in regards to the retrieval of identity. I've had approaches from several groups last week, asking for assistance in developing their knowledge base in regards to who they are and what their identity is. So the next stage for me, to answer your question, straight up, is to start identifying the next lot of, to identity amongst out youth those who will lead us. Who will take over, from this stage that we're working on now.
JK: I asked Te Warihi about the stone waka and wave sculpture located on the Hatea Loop, a project produced in collaboration with Chris Booth. I thought this project was unusual, given that it is constructed of kohatu, of stone, not timber like the majority of Te Warihi’s work.
TWH: The material is irrelevant. It's irrelevant. Creativity is the... if you've got those things floating around in your mind, then your eyes will land on an object. It doesn't matter what the object is.
JK: This led me to ask Te Warihi about his creative process, and his work as a carver.
TWH: As you age, then you're really looking at how the next generation is going to take it forward into the future. So that creativity stuff now, is not as relevant as it was when I was when I was a youth, when I was younger. I’ve been teaching the next generation.
Most of our work is around meeting houses, canoes, heaps of pou all over the place. But most of the work we do is mainly is already there. I don't see myself as an artist for a start. I think my role is more to do with recording our history, using the methods that our ancestors used and handed down from generation to generation. So, the patterns that were handed down are the same to me as the letters in the alphabet that you learnt at school.
So all of the designs that they’ve handed down already had philosophies and meanings and all of those sorts of things connected to them, embedded in them. And it's passing that stuff on, that I think is really important to me. And also, passing on the takutaku that go with them, the verses that go with them. The takutaku are like our... the new term for takutaku is karakia. So takutaku is basically the framework that was handed down from generation to generation so that there's no changes made to what you're recording.
What I was going to say, to directly answer that question - sometimes I have dreams, and they just come out of nowhere, so for example you get asked to do a pou like that, for example, and then go and say 'oh, that things got to represent, it's going to be tūpuna, it's going to represent a tūpuna,' and then something happens, bang, and the vision comes up. Oh, keep away from tūpuna, that's going to be something else. Then you start forming the structure of it. But all of it mainly comes through guardians from the spiritual realm. What you put on it, like the whakarae and everything that goes on it. The whakarae, it's the stuff that's handed down. So we've got the spiritual connection, and the stuff that was handed down added to what was. The handed down stuff is the whakarae, and all that sort of stuff. The name of the different patterns.
JK: As a highly respected and eminent tohunga whakairo and cultural practitioner, I asked Te Warihi to share his perspective on shaping our environment from a Māori worldview.
TWH: Tikanga is just as important as the reo, in fact I think it's even a little bit - im my view - tikanga is a little bit higher. They go hand-in-hand. It's not good enough that you gain the reo on it's own. Like learning the reo outside the context of tikanga doesn’t necessarily give you those values that our people actually live by, and those values that applied to ensuring that our environment was taken care of, that kōrero you know, Hutia te rito o te harakeke kei hia koe koromako he ko. Ki au he aha te mea nui o te ao - he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
So that's saying several things, that tauparara. It saying several things. One, it starts with the environment, but the environment will cease to exist if the mentality of humanity isn’t in balance with it.
Interesting, eh, because the buildings that we put up now too, there's materials in there that does harm, it doesn't break down, it does harm to the environment. Whereas when we looked at the buildings that our ancestors built, nothing was harmful. It's got to be a re-education. The re-education of the younger generation that's, it's got to be the younger generation, that we need to feed this information into.
JK: That was Tohunga Whakairo Te Warihi Hetaraka, Master carver for Te Tai Tokerau. Ngā mihi nui ki a koe e Te Warihi.
Reflecting on Te Warihi’s kōrero, it really changes everything when we reframe development in that way, and start thinking in terms of a reciprocal relationship between people and our environment. With this shift in thinking, we just might start to re-consider the impact that we’re having, and start to make very different decisions as a result.
And maybe at the heart of it, that’s what our cultural perspective brings to shaping the environment that’s different. I think this is something that we as Māori have to offer the built environment professions, and Aotearoa New Zealand society as a whole.
Next, we spoke with David Badham, nō Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei, a planner based in Whangarei. We asked David to share his whakaaro on the convergence of the planning profession and tikanga Māori.
David Badham: Ko David Badham tāku ingoa, ko Ngāti Whātua te iwi, ko Ōrākei raua ko Kaipara te hapū. I'm a Whangarei boy, I'm a Whangarei lad, I was born and bred here, I'm back here in Whangarei with my family.
I would say it is a tension. Planning has never really got the Māori worldview, and the cultural component of sustainable management. Everyone sees the term cultural or Māori worldview and get scared. As a planner, I think it's a strength for me, to have that ability to whakapapa back to Ngāti Whātua. Not just from a working perspective, but also just in terms of having a better understanding of where Māori are coming from, because the Resource Management Act is really founded on a Western worldview of science and fact, and you have an expert who comes and tells you that something's okay. Whereas a Māori worldview, through different links and connections, and concepts of mauri and whakapapa is much more holistic, you don't just look at something in isolation, you don't just look at one project here, or something like that, one individual component. You look at the entire system and how it interrelates.
So, I think planning as a profession really struggles with that, because it's not something that you can quantify, it's not something that you can get an expert or scientist to sit up on the stand in the environment court and say that this is the quantifiable cultural effect of something. It's intangible, it's emotive, and I'm really interested in that intersection of the different worldviews, because I don't think you can just ignore one or the other, they both have other actions. I do feel that planning really undervalues the Māori worldview and cultural values.
Planners training is very much focused on that Western worldview, the comfort that you can rely on other expert opinions to form your own opinion. You're taught that quite early - if you need to figure out what the ecological effect is you go to an ecologist, the engineer will tell you the engineering design, and then the planner is sort of this role which takes all of these disciplines into account and makes a determination, makes a decision. One of the difficulties or challenges is you've got these Western science approaches, they're quantifiable, they're measurable, they're peer reviewed, they're scientists, they're PhDs, with forty years experience, but then, what the planning profession, I think, really struggles to do is to compare that sort of structured approach, Western approach, to the Māori approach where you might have kaumātua or kuia with forty years experience in understanding whakapapa, connections to place, and mauri. But are they on a level field, when you compare that to the PhD engineer and they're saying that the ecological effects of the development are all okay, but then in the Māori worldview, you're saying, well actually, the intersection and the relationship between ecology and mauri and environmentalists is totally holistic, and taking in all that. So whereas the Western worldview might say, well, the effects on something here are minor, the effects here are minor, the effects here are minor, the Māori worldview might look at all those minor effects and say, this is significant.
The concept of indigenous urbanism needs to be taken up, and more readily accepted by the Councils. Not just in local government, but in central government as well. Again, it's that Western approach to development, which looks at things in isolation, whereas I think there's a lot to be gained from a Māori worldview applied to urban development. Looking at things holistically and bringing in those Māori design principles as well.
JK: In regional cities like Whangarei, these projects wouldn’t be possible without the support of local government. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but there are some significant movements afoot in the spirit of genuine Treaty partnership. On that note, I’ll leave the final word to Bernadette:
BA: With the Council hat on, or being in a Council space, I'm feeling like I'm seeing willingness within the staff, definitely. I've only been working in this space for five months, most of my work being Tāmaki based. But I think nationally, I feel like there is more genuine willingness to do better in the planning profession.
JK: You can find out more about the Hihiaua Cultural Centre project at hihiaua.org.nz - that’s H I H I A U A dot org dot 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Carin Wilson, a Ngāti Awa artist, designer and craftsperson with studios in Te Tai Tokerau and Tāmaki Makaurau. Carin’s urban and built works include the origination and development of public and private projects with a cultural focus, frequently in collaboration with artists, designers and architects.
Carin Wilson: If we go back to the head, the hands and the heart again, that cycle of integration, for me it's an endless cycle. If my heart's not in it, then I'd probably better walk away from the project. If I can't handle it in my head, then I'd probably better not continue, cause I'm intellectually not capable of taking it any further. Those two, working in a kind of synchronicity, are what drives what comes out of my hands. So, I firmly believe that it's an integrating and integrated process, that when we hit it, it's like I'm no longer the agent of what's going on here, there's something else at work.