An interface between Art and Science: Empowering the local Māori voice in a Graphical Representation of New Zealand's Biological Heritage

Marcus Shadbolt & Jodanne Aitken - IIRC20
Friday, November 20, 2020

New Zealand’s biodiversity is in decline due to threats such as climate change and habitat destruction. This unique biodiversity, and the wider environment (New Zealand’s biological heritage) are critical to the Māori world view and culture. Māori have long advocated for greater engagement in efforts to reverse this decline. One negative outcome that can be associated with localized declines in biological heritage (bioheritage) is a concomitant loss of local Māori language (dialectical) terms and growing use of standardised Māori terms. Replacing local dialectical terms also runs the risk of losing the associated mātauranga (knowledge) that is inherent in the meaning of these local terms for their unique flora and fauna. Retaining this bioheritage knowledge is considered important and could play an important role in conservation efforts. This research project was co-created with a kaumatua (elder) from the Tūhoe-Tuawhenua region who was concerned at the loss of their own unique Māori names for flora and fauna. The research aimed to provide a viable way to retain and empower local indigenous bio-heritage terms via the creation of a static visual educational resource for Tuhoe-Tuawhenua youth displaying the forest vegetation of the Tūhoe-Tuawhenua. The plants in the final resource are identified by their local Māori term and corresponding scientific name. Depicting ecological accuracy in the artwork was a specific requirement of the kaumatua and created some unique outcomes in how the artwork formed. This manuscript discusses the approaches used in this research and includes an analysis of its successes as well as its wider global applications.