Ki te kapu o takau ringa - In the Hollow of my Hand: Wānanga based Photographic Approaches to Place Representation

Keywords: Kaupapa Māori, Matauranga Māori, Wānanga, Photography, Place


Ka matakitaki iho au ki te riu o Waikato 

Ano nei hei kapo kau ake maaku; 

Ki te kapu o taku ringa, 


“I look down on the valley of Waikato,  

As though to hold it  

In the hollow of my hand.” 


The words above are from Māori King Tawhiao’s maioha (song poem), a representation of his love for his homelands of the Waikato and the region known today as the King Country. Now imagine a large-scale photograph: a close-up of cupped hands, holding an object carefully. The phrase above informs Professor Tom Roa and Dr. Rodrigo Hill’s current research project titled ‘Te Nehenehenui - The Ancient Enduring Beauty in the Great Forest of the King Country’. With this project still in its early stages the research team will present early and ongoing creative practice developments, discussions and ideas about photography practice, wānanga, and place representation. The project promotes the use of wānanga (forums and meetings of focus groups through which knowledge - mātauranga - is discussed and passed on) and other reflective practices, engaging with and led by mana whenua (guardians of the land) providing a thread which will guide the construction of the photographic images. The research fuses wānanga, that is Mātauranga Māori (Māori Knowledge), and photography practice in novel ways, aiming to move away and challenge core photographic conventions and Eurocentric modes of place representation. Roa and Hill understand wānanga as a fluid practice of engagement which can be with mana whenua or with the taiao - the environment - either by itself or with the mana whenua. This is the essence of Kaupapa Māori Research. 

Author Biographies

Rodrigo Hill, The University of Waikato

Dr. Rodrigo Hill is a Lecturer in Screen and Media at the University of Waikato School of Arts. Rodrigo’s PhD examined the relationship between photography and place-making and the intersection of lens-based and documentary approaches in which photography plays the role of representing layered place-imaginaries. Rodrigo is an exhibiting artist engaged with lens-based practice, installation, and publication.  

Tom Roa, The University of Waikato

Dr Tom Roa (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato) is a Tainui leader and Manukura / Professor in the University of Waikato’s Te Pua Wananga ki te Ao - Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies. Tom’s PhD examined questions about the theory and practices of Māori to English language translation and interpretation. Tom is one of the founders of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori movement in the 1970s. 


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