Waewae Taku Haere Stepping into Belonging in Storied Landscapes

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Jen Archer-Martin
Stuart Foster
Kura Puke


The sites of spatial design practice are storied landscapes. Most spatial design projects begin with site analysis — a research process of coming to ‘know’ site, context, parameters, and opportunities. Even more fundamental is a process of listening; of attuning. In colonised countries such as Aotearoa New Zealand, the contexts of site include histories of colonisation and the marginalised stories of the Indigenous peoples whose lands, place names, and histories are often overwritten by settler-colonial stories, education systems, and built environments. How might spatial designers attune to Indigenous stories in the land? What new processes, modes, relationships, and understandings are required? How and to what extent should those who are not mana whenua (tribal groups with local territorial rights, relationships, and responsibilities) have access to this knowledge, often located within oral traditions of story and song? How do we prepare to work with these stories — a journey often filled with uncertainty and emotion — and keep ourselves and others safe throughout the process? These are essential skills for spatial designers in a decolonising/reindigenising world. This text-based research essay constitutes a journey of critical reflection and conversation around an experimental studio project the authors ran with third-year undergraduate spatial design students. Led by tangata whenua (Māori), tangata Tiriti (non-Māori treaty partner), and mana whenua researchers, the project was conducted within a bicultural framework informed by mātauranga and tikanga Māori (Māori knowledge systems and protocols). Students were introduced to a waiata pātere — a Māori chant that ‘maps’ places in a landscape — that had been composed for our learning community. They employed embodied methods of research and representation to generate immersive experiences that responded to the pātere and the stories in the land, as a way of coming to belong to, rather than to ‘know’, place.


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How to Cite
Archer-Martin, Jen, Stuart Foster, and Kura Puke. 2023. “Waewae Taku Haere: Stepping into Belonging in Storied Landscapes”. idea journal 20 (01):151–179. https://doi.org/10.37113/ij.v20i01.511.