Urupā Tautaiao: Revitalising ancient customs and practices for the modern world
Supported by the Marsden Fund Council from Government funding, managed by Royal Society Te Apārangi, this urupā tautaiao (natural burials) research has an explicit decolonising agenda. It presents a pragmatic opportunity for Māori to re-evaluate, reconnect, and adapt ancient customs and practices for the modern world. The design practice output focus is the restoration of existing graves located in the urupā (burial ground) of the Ngāti Moko, a hapū (subtribe) of the Tapuika tribe that occupy ancestral land in central North Island of New Zealand. In preparation for the gravesite development, a series of hui a hapū (tribal meetings) were held to engage and encourage participation in the research. The tribe drew on the expertise of an ecologist landscape architect and tohunga whakairo (master carver/artist) to transform the graves into a work of art. Surrounded by conventional gravestones, and using only natural materials, the gravesite aspires to capture the beauty of nature embellished with distinctively Māori cultural motifs. Low maintenance native plants are intersected with three pou (traditional carvings) that carry pūrākau (Māori sacred narratives) of life and death.
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