Date29 Aug 2023
Here, Ngaumutane Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu, Kai Tahu, Ngāi Tūhoe), shares insights into the whakapapa of the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board and the thinking that guides their kaupapa.
How would you define Māori Design in Aotearoa right now?
Māori have always been creators, artists and designers. It’s just part of who we are. With the rapid development of technology, we have more and more ways to express and share our stories. We are limitless in what we can create now and those we can reach and inspire. It’s an exciting time and space to be a part of.
Who are you designing for and why?
I am creating for Māori, the Takatāpui community, friends and whānau. I think there is something meaningful when you see something created by māori-takatāpui-friends-whānau that is for māori-takatāpui-friends-whānau. We are a minority, so sometimes it can be hard to be heard or understood. Some of us don’t know how to express that yet, so when we create/design something that relates to a larger group of people, it’s like that voice gets a bit louder. So I think the more we make and see ourselves in our environment, the more we feel empowered and seen.
We found lots of practitioners described themselves as Haututu when asked what they do – do you have other aspects to your creative practice?
Āe, I can relate to this as I will try everything. I like exploring different mediums, overcoming new challenges, and being a beginner. You know, that feeling of no expectations when you create something for the first time. Then the slow revealing of what becomes possible once you learn bit by bit. It’s exciting once you get enough skill to execute your ideas. I’m sure many creatives have bags of projects they’ve tried in a cupboard or shed. I like the think of them as little detours to fill the creative kete before returning to the big projects or dreams we chip away at.
We used the wise words of Queenie Erueti to preface the Tīhāte! Project: Kaua e wareware ko wai koe, kia a kaha koe ki to whakapapa. Remember who you are, your strength is in your genealogy. This whakatauki speakes about the importance of whakapapa – how does this relate to your design kaupapa? Is there something that you’ve created lately that you’re really proud of?
Whakapapa is everything. It’s how we ground ourselves in who we are as a collective and self. This whakatauki speaks to this Tīhate and what it means to Whakatōhea and their whakapapa, as well as that reminder of the strength you have through your whakapapa.
Besides this Tīhate, I recently created a pair of beaded earrings inspired by some of my Nan’s taniko. I found the beads in an op shop and decided to make something with them. I often think about my Nan when crafting anything, as she was an artist herself. I was really proud of how they turned out, maybe because I thought my Nan would like them too.
Do you have a favourite Māori designed tīhāte?
I have a few actually! I’m not sure who created this particular shirt, but I thrifted one in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton for about $10. It’s a grey “Hawaiian Strength” shirt that says “Makoa. The Fearless” on the back with a super buff Hawaiian warrior wearing a Makini (warrior helmet) and his dog in a sick stencil style. I think it’s from the ’90s. I thought it was super cool to see an indigenous design on a shirt. I had never really seen that before. Someone approached me when I was wearing it and said there was a full range of tees themed from each island. There was even a Māori one, but I’ve never been able to find much more information on them.
What is another Māori business/organisation that you admire?
I have to say I admire the ones I work alongside, my friends and whānau. Truly, incredible people that do amazing mahi across so many different spaces. I have learnt so much from just talking around the kai table about te ao māori, the relations we have that are not just human to human but to te taiao, our spiritual connections, life etc. So I want to acknowledge them because they have taught me so much about myself and helped me so much on my journey as an artist.
Designers name: Ngaumutane Jones
Business/organisation name: Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board
Ko Tākitimu te waka
Ko Ngaruroro te Awa
Ko Kahurānaki te maunga
Ko Ngāti Toa Harapaki te hapū
Ko Kohupātiki te marae
Ko Ngāti Kahungunu te iwi
E pānga anō tāku ki Kai Tahu, ki Ngāi Tūhoe me Tainui hoki. I tipu ake au i raro i te tikanga me ngā kawa o te Whakatōhea.
E noho ana au ki Ōpōtiki.
The week I started working for the Whakatōhea Iwi was the same week that Mr G was running The Tūmanako Project aimed at helping rangatahi stand in their mana and overcome struggles towards a brighter future. Through this kaupapa, Mr G became captivated by a carving in one of the oldest ancestral whare of te Whakatōhea exhibited in the Ōpōtiki Museum, which illustrates Tapairu Muriwai with a mataora and puhoro. This is uncommon as men usually bear mataora, but she carries these markings because of her strength and mana. Through much kōrero and discussions, the mural of Muriwai was created and now has pride of place on the front of the Trust Board's building. I want to mihi to Mr G and his mahi, which has been the catalyst for this T-shirt design. Being involved and observing that kaupapa showed me how much Muriwai meant to te Whakatōhea and the influence she still has today as a key leader and role model and especially as a woman who carried mataora and puhoro. The stories of Muriwai showed me who Whakatōhea is and the characteristics that shape the people I would be working alongside. The purpose of the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board is to empower the descendants of Whakatōhea, fostering their well-being and embodying their ancestors' attributes and shared vision. This purpose, encapsulated in the phrase "Kia rangatira ai ngā uri o te Whakatōhea," is printed at the bottom of the design. Even something as seemingly small as creating a shirt can serve as a powerful tool for reconnection, allowing us to honour our whakapapa (genealogy), beliefs, and values. By wearing this shirt, we can embrace our identity and forge meaningful connections with our heritage.
Whakapapa of Kaupapa:
This artwork portrays Muriwai, her flowing hair, as a nurturing korowai for those who descend from her. The vibrant hue of orange represents the boldness, passion, and creativity inherent in the Whakatōhea people. They are known to be entrepreneurial, strong-willed, and unafraid to chart their own path. She is adorned with mataora in remembrance of her mana and strength. Placed on the back of the shirt, Muriwai's presence is ever-felt, even in her absence, symbolising her enduring influence in the community.
To me, to us, Muriwai is the pride of Whakatōhea.