Place-making: Wānanga based photographic approaches
Ka matakitaki iho au ki te riu o Waikato
Ano nei hei kapo kau ake maaku
Ki te kapu o taku ringa,
The words above are from the poem Māori King Tawhiao wrote expressing his love for his homelands of the Waikato and the region known today as the King Country. The words translate to: “I look down on the valley of Waikato, As though to hold it in the hollow of my hand.” Now imagine a large-scale photograph depicting a close-up frame of cupped hands trying to hold something carefully. The words above inform 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 past collaborations which they will show leads into new ideas and discussions about photography, wānanga, and place representation. They focus on Māori King Tawhiao’s finding refuge in Te Nehenehenui, later called the King Country in his honour. He led many of his Waikato people into this refuge as a result of the British Invasion and confiscation of their Waikato lands in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The love of and for those lands prompted him to compose his ‘maioha’ - this poem painting a word-picture of these spaces which their photography humbly aims to portray. The project advances the use of wānanga (forums and meetings through which knowledge is discussed and passed on) and other reflective practices, engaging with mana whenua and providing a thread which will guide the construction of the photographic images. The name Te Nehenhenui was conceptualised by Polynesian ancestors who travelled from Tahiti and were impressed with the beauty of the land and the vast verdant forests of the King Country territories in the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. The origins of the name and further relevant historical accounts have been introduced and discussed by Professor Tom Roa (Ngāti Apakura, Ngāti Hinewai), Shane Te Ruki (Ngāti Unu, Ngāti Kahu) and Doug Ruki (Ngāti Te Puta I Te Muri, Ngāti Te Kanawa, Ngāti Peehi) in the TVNZ Waka Huia documentary series. The documentary provides a compelling account of the origins of the name Te Nehenehenui, thus informing this project’s core ideas and objectives. The research fuses wānanga, that is Mātauranga Māori, and photographic research approaches in novel ways. It highlights the importance of local Waikato-Maniapoto cosmological narratives and Māori understandings of place in their intersecting with the Western discipline of photography. This practice-led research focuses on photography and offers innovative forms of critical analysis and academic argumentation by constructing, curating, and presenting the photographic work as a public gallery exhibition. For this edition of the LINK Conference, the research team will present early collaborations and current research developments exploring place-making and wānanga as both methodology and photography practice.
Copyright (c) 2022 LINK 2022 Conference Proceedings
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.