Whakamanu Research Project: Kuia and koroheke insights into marae-based archiving and hapū taonga preservation

Meri Haami & Susie Wakefield - IIRC20
Friday, November 20, 2020

The Whakamanu Research Project aims to develop an archival organisation system specific to two hapū (collections of whānau; sub-tribal) and marae (traditional place of gathering) communities for taonga (treasures; tangible and intangible treasures) that belong to whānau (extended families) and hapū associated with Kauangaroa Marae and Rānana Marae. This research is facilitated by Te Atawhai o Te Ao, an Independent Kaupapa Māori Research Institute for the environment and health, based in Whanganui, Aotearoa (New Zealand).

This project collaboratively works with hapū and marae communities to establish their own independently led archives, combining specific hapū and whānau appropriate methodologies and frameworks. Hapū and whānau specific frameworks were brought out through interviews with pahake (elders immersed in tikanga or correct and accepted practices), koroheke (elderly men), kuia (elderly women), and ahi kā (ancestral fires of occupation; those who reside on ancestral lands) of both marae and hapū communities. These interviews highlighted the need to incentivise uri (descendants) to return home, to better create connections between ‘home’ (the marae) and uri living away, and an apprehension to place all of their taonga online. Furthermore, the two marae communities raised further queries surrounding taonga preservation within the context of digitisation as well as repatriation. These issues include navigating data sovereignty, safeguarding knowledge online, and how to best accommodate the multi-layered contextual background of taonga online. Moreover, these enquiries have informed the next stages of taonga digitisation within the context of the marae-based archives for Kauangaroa Marae and Rānana Marae.