Submission # 29
Student – Ākonga
Identity – People & Culture
Impact – Social Good
Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau
‘Woven’ is a hands on weaving experience, created to help the public connect with the Māori cultural values of Manaakitanga and Kaitiakitanga.
Our design brief was self-generated, stemming from observations during a prior university brief. In that brief our task was to communicate kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga as core Māori values to recent immigrants. We found that despite these being universal concepts that anyone can approach, we ourselves hadn’t fully acknowledged them. We realised that many residents of Aotearoa; immigrants, residents, even those born here, view Māori culture from afar, through preconceived notions rather than first-hand experiences. We wanted to help change that and connect on a more direct, personal, and experiential level.
Supported by Media Design School, and guided by Māori mentors (primarily Johnson McKay of Fly studio, and Dr Jo Diamond as MDS’ Kaitakawaenga) Woven was pitched to council representatives at the Ellen Melville Centre as a public-facing facilitated workshop and installation.
Woven would feature:
1 - A weaving workshop, where participants are welcomed and guided to weave harakeke (flax). Participants would be instructed in the process of creating an ika (fish), and while doing so would be delivered Woven’s context as a hands-on personal experience in kaitiakitanga (through engaging with natural resources, harakeke, respectfully) and manaakitanga (through welcoming, passing of knowledge, and shared experience).
2 - A graphic display of Māori visual narrative that represents kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga, and the people who adopt them. These visuals would deliver context, and an inviting atmosphere to draw in curious onlookers.
Woven is built upon an understanding that values are more than words. They are to be observed, experienced, and ultimately: lived by.
Accepting the challenge of presenting kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga with integrity meant engaging these values ourselves. Here we saw an opportunity to go further - applying them at every stage of the process for a more powerful outcome.
Kaitiakitanga shaped our materials: minimising print, preferring recyclable ,reusable, and digital assets, and strictly following the tikanga associated with cultural portrayal, harakeke, and weaving.
Manaakitanga shaped collaboration; at each stage of the project we consulted a range of Māori mentors to advise and nurture Wovens growth into a valuable representation of culture:
Johnson McKay (creative director - Fly studio) offered perspective as a Māori creative director - providing foundation knowledge, encouraging innovation, and supporting a visual narrative that represented our own journey.
Dr Jo Diamond (PhD weaver, and Media Design School’s kaitakawaenga) offered constant guidance, conversation, and a te ao Māori lens. She’s a living embodiment of the values we sought to portray, and ultimately inspired raranga (weaving) as our vessel for engaging with kaitiakitanga (handling harakeke gives the material respect, by following its tikanga you guard and preserve its future) and manaakitanga (weaving is a generational passage of knowledge that serves a greater community).
Bernadette Papa (Principal advisor - Māori outcomes for Auckland council) provided formal feedback and permissions: validating our portrayal of Māori culture for the public, and as tangata whenua - providing permissions for harvesting local harakeke.
Woven was challenged with connecting with a diverse public audience.
Māori design is familiar to many through kowhaiwhai, and whakairo, but that familiarity can keep people distant - Many see a culture that isn’t theirs, applying preconceived notions rather than attaining a first-hand perspective.
To connect we needed to tell an unconventional, unfamiliar, graphic treatment and an approachable story. In response we shaped a visual narrative that reflected Woven’s message - hospitality, the passing of knowledge, new growth, and respect for those who came before us. Inspired by the Ellen Melville Centre itself, this narrative utilised pillars, walls, and the building’s role as a community centre to reinforce our story:
Supporting pillars became pou - representing Woven’s core principles:
The left pou represents values, with kowhai (yellow) and karera (green) for hospitality and knowledge, and symbols like niho taniwha for strength and protection.
The right pou represents people, with karaka (orange) for the lasting fires of occupation, and kahurangi (blue) for preciousness, and symbols like pou tangata - the many people of Tāmaki Makaurau.
These themes divide the room: values on the left, and people on the right. Steadily they come together, converging at the back wall in a community weaving display.
Here, by following the tikanga of weaving, users give their first creation away, and so shift from witnessing kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga to experiencing and gifting it. By proudly displaying our raranga ika, we stand by these values, and take part in a greater community that shares them.
"A pure/genuine expression of Manaakitanga and Kaitiakitanga. Actions speak louder than words, this initiative is proof of that. The concept of weaving, overlapping and things connecting is so well considered within the story and the environment. The space around and how people interact with the pillars and values is brilliant. What sticks in my mind is the identity, contemporary Maori design paired with a vibrant/contemporary is such a refreshing spin.
A genuinely expertly curated feel-good project."
"Loved the beautifully designed hands-on experiences created to share this knowledge and really offer a genuine value exchange of learning through embracing these values (both for the designers throughout each step of the process and the audience who engaged). Each touchpoint was professionally executed. Well done!"
"Great way of discussing values. Learning through play. The visual language is welcoming and steps outside of what is typically expected when playing with indigenous motifs"
"This project is really well researched and meaningfully grounded in te ao Māori. An excellent example of learning about culture by doing."
Credits & Collaborators: Creative Director - Russell Hooton-Fox Designer - Russell Hooton-Fox, Case Dakota, Jack Whitehead, Desmond Cheong Experience Design - Russell Hooton-Fox, Case Dakota, Jack Whitehead, Desmond Cheong Teacher/Tutor - Pritika Y. Lal, Tammie Leong, Matt Stevens Mentor - Dr Jo Diamond, Johnson McKay, Bernadette Papa
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