Indigenous Philosophy

Following my time at music school, I fell in love with mātauranga Māori or traditional Māori knowledge. I devoured the Māori language and iwi/tribal histories and traditions. Just as I had inspiring moments with music - like my time as a 13 year old trumpeter playing in the school orchestra - I also had inspiring moments during my first adventures in mātauranga Māori. For example, I recall the first time whakapapa (genealogies and stories) as a way of ordering, explaining and arranging the world; it is a rich and complex system for explaining the world it is the genius of the Māori world.

My early mentor in indigenous knowledge and philosophy was my granduncle Rev. Māori Marsden, a graduate of the traditional whare wānanga, a tohunga and a Anglican Minister. Māori was one of the few writers of his generation who shared his thinking and ideas about mātauranga Māori/traditional Māori knowledge and attempting to offer something of a 'bridge' between the old world and the new. I was fortunate to collect his writings together and edit a book called The Woven Universe: Selected Writings of Rev. Māori Marsden.

Another early mentor and teacher was Prof Whatarangi Winiata of Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Tamaterā. Whatarangi appointed me Director of Graduate Studies and Research at Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa in the period 1996-2002. Whatarangi introduced me to mātauranga Māori as a formal subject and my day to day responsibility was to design and deliver a masters programme in mātauranga Māori. As there had been very little writing about mātauranga Māori to that point, I set myself the task of preparing new material in the Māori language as an introduction for my students. The outcome of this journey was the publication of Te Ngākau: He Wānanga i te Mātaurangaa text in Māori about knowledge and mātauranga Māori.

Following my time at Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa, I then wrote a series of monographs on aspects of mātauranga Māori. This series of writings is collectively entitled Te Kaimānga: Towards a New Vision for Mātauranga MāoriThese four monographs, together with a number of other reports and miscellaneous writings form a body of work all on aspects of mātauranga Māori. The key thrust of these writings is to demonstrate that mātauranga Māori continues to exist in Aotearoa-New Zealand - albeit in a fragmentary and somewhat disorganised form - and that it retains much 'creative potential' which can be positively applied in a range of ways. You can purchase a number of these reports here.

My interest now is to focus more directly on the concept of wānanga, a traditional Māori word we can most closely associate with creativity and innovation. More generally, I now use this term to refer to creativity within an updated mātauranga Māori tradition, a kind of creativity which makes use of ideas and perspectives on knowledge and knowing found within mātauranga Māori and indigenous knowledge generally. Hence, my thinking, research and writing in philosophy are focused upon the following:

  • the creative uses of mātauranga Māori today, the fostering of wānanga in Māori communities
  • developing an understanding of indigeneity today, the potential impact and significance of indigenous worldview and cultures in our world today

These activities are conducted within a milieu of seeking contributions to contemporary indigenous/Māori development and the contribution of indigeneity to the world at large. To this end, my work is also focused upon 'interculturalism' - understanding and fostering the capability to successfully interact and engage across cultures, a capability that increases in need today.