Inside the Aotearoa House; decolonising art and design education in Aotearoa
Art and design, as with many other subjects in New Zealand’s educational system, is taught from a distinctly Euro-centric position. ‘Inside the Aotearoa House’ was an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural design project that looked to disrupt this status quo by bringing both Māori content and tikanga Māori into tertiary level teaching.
Working with students from five different disciplines (art, graphic design, spatial design, contemporary craft and photography), the challenge for our tauira was to re-imagine a New Zealand home through a bicultural lens. In doing so we asked, “How would the things in our homes look, feel and function if the design process used to create them were shaped simultaneously by mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), Toi Māori (Māori arts practices) and Pākehā (non-Māori of predominantly British descent) design principles?”.
Rather than focusing on just the inclusion of Māori content, the project looked at how tikanga Māori might shape student experiences and the designed outcomes. At the same time, the consideration and re-positioning of Maori knowledge within the art and design context was a direct challenge to the globalised nature of design industries and the affect they have upon local identity in New Zealand.
The student’s innovative design outcomes indicate the emergence of an exciting category of culturally informed artefacts, engaging viewers and users with other identities and promoting the development of deeper understanding without commodification or misappropriation. At the same time the successful transposition of tikanga Maori to non-Maori subjects suggests that Māori processes and ways of understanding the world could be normalized throughout all tertiary curriculum.
Featured Speaker Bio
Dr. Johnson Witehira is a designer and artist of Ngāpuhi (Ngai-tū-te-auru), Tamahaki (Ngāti Hinekura), and Pākehā descent. He currently leads the graphic design pathway within AUT’s Communication Design department. He graduated from the Whanganui School of Design in 2007, going on to complete his Masters. His interest in Māori visual art led then him to Massey University where he completed a doctorate (2013) that explored how the aesthetics and tikanga in customary Māori art might inform contemporary Maori design. As an artist, Witehira’s work often explores identity and the space between cultures. He has worked on a diverse range of creative projects, from solo and group exhibitions, to public art including murals, light-box works and projected light installations. In 2012 Witehira’s work was exhibited in Times Square, New York, in the first ever syncronised display of digital content. In his Land of Tara (2014, Wellington) series Witehira created a collection of graphic representations of the capital city’s. His specific areas of teaching and design expertise are contemporary Māori design and decolonizing design practices.