An image from the 2014 Whare Tapere - entering into the bush storytelling site of Waikaha, Waimangō.

An image from the 2014 Whare Tapere - entering into the bush storytelling site of Waikaha, Waimangō.

Indigenous Creativity

Indigenous creativity and innovation is about achieving new horizons and possibilities for indigenous knowledge and worldview, and realising the creative potential of indigenous people and communities.

There are two aspects of pursuing new possibilities for indigenous knowledge and worldview. The first concerns how we may recover and revitalize existing indigenous knowledge held within our communities and elsewhere. There is a lot of knowledge, albeit fragmentary, maintained in a wide variety of settings (such as museums, libraries and archives as well as in our communities) that can be utilized today. In the Māori community, we have seen the recent renaissance of tā-moko (tattooing), taonga pūoro (musical instruments), the Māori language and wānanga (knowledge sharing and creation). There are many more examples too of the recovery of traditional knowledge. On many occasions this means researching in museums, libraries and archives as well as in the ‘tribal archive’, those formal and informal settings where traditional knowledge can be found.

The second task concerns the reworking of our fragmentary existing knowledge in new creative ways – the use of existing mātauranga Māori, for example, as the basis for a new creativity, to create anew. Again we see such innovations taking place in tā-moko, in karetao (puppets), in healing practices, in gardening and fishing and much more. This is innovation at the level of an individual expression and application of mātauranga Māori.

Growing out of this are further creative discussions concerning the fundamental basis of our traditional indigenous knowledge. What are the principles and foundations of this knowledge and how may these be reworked in ways that are meaningful today and tomorrow? Here we see our creativity moving toward a reworked indigeneity that may be of relevance and value to all - the liberation and maturation of a new indigenous spirit and intelligence, sensibility and worldview appropriate to life in the 21st century.

The second great theme of indigenous creativity is achieving new horizons and possibilities for indigenous people and communities. This goal too has two aspects. The first is 'giving voice' and expressing the experience and the imagination of indigenous peoples through their encounter with colonisation and contemporary indigenous lives today - the initial encounter, the subsequent disenfranchisement, diminishment and loss felt for generations and the renewal and renaissance of the last 50 years or so.

Unfortunately, the experience of indigenous peoples of the last 100-200 years is still not well known outside of our communities. Although much progress has been made, the narrative about the overall history of our country is still dominated by non-indigenous peoples. Hence, there is much work to do to create new narratives about our experiences and to give expression to them in a variety of ways. We have made great progress with the establishment of Māori Television, iwi radio and news and journal publications. However, much remains to be done.

The second key aspect of achieving new horizons and possibilities for indigenous people and communities concerns planning the future for our people. In Aotearoa, the settlement of Treaty claims is catalyzing our people to think a great deal about where we wish to be in 50 years time (and longer). The challenge before us is not just to articulate and express our history but also to fully liberate our imaginations and to dream of new possibilities for our communities, for our people. Again, we have much to do.