Rōpū Whānau: A whakawhiti kōrero research methodology

  • Jani Wilson Independent
  • Marcos Mortensen Steagall  (Translator)
Keywords: Audience, Kapahaka, Indigenous Research Methododologies, Rōpū Whānau, Whānau


Kapahaka is not simply the song and dance of Aotearoa’s Indigenous people. Deeply steeped in mātauranga Māori, kapahaka is a way of simultaneously exemplifying Māori histories, the present, and the future; meanwhile it is a community-focused cultural practice, methodology, and pedagogy. Contemporary kapahaka – both competitive and for entertainment – fosters, develops, validates, and celebrates the Māori world, the language, and our ‘ways’: arguably the fundamental building blocks of Māori ‘popular culture’. The research project Kia Rite! Kapahaka for Screens, from which this presentation is a tiny proportion, will focus on the influence and impact of screen production on the art’s ebbs and flows, and the conflicts between maintaining ‘traditions’ and exploring innovation in and towards the future. Over the last century, the kapahaka art-form has evolved exponentially, and as the wider project will explore, in large part as a response to the advancement of screen technologies. An important strand in Kia Rite! will investigate the kapahaka audience. It employs a refined iteration of Rōpū Whānau, a focus group methodology where closely linked relations will be asked to respond to archival through to contemporary kapahaka footage as a generational screen audience study. Exploring responses to screened kapahaka in this way revisits a whakawhiti kōrero-based audience study method designed to reflect and embody the fundamental whakataukī ‘he aha te kai o ngā rangatira? He kōrero’ (what is the food of chiefs? It is talk.) Rōpū Whānau was developed to move beyond the ‘safety in numbers’ focus group methodology to more of a ‘safety within the whānau’ format. By inviting participants from the same family, a duty to protect the under 18s and inherently control researcher behaviours provides an extra layer of a kind of ‘Māori ethics’. This critical presentation brings forward the fundamental elements of Rōpū Whānau and unpacks how it has been used in various research projects in the past. This is to plot the way forward for Indigenous community-led research methodologies, and encourages the consideration of Indigenous research approaches. 

Author Biography

Jani Wilson, Independent

Hails from Pāroa on the outskirts of Whakatāne. She has a PhD in Film, TV and Media Studies from the University of Auckland, and is currently an independent researcher in Screen Arts/Studies