I come from a family of teachers. Both my parents are teachers and I have uncles, aunties and cousins who are also teachers. My father was a high school principal, the Director of a polytechnic and was heavily involved in the establishment of our tribal college, Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa. My mother too was a school teacher and taught in a polytechnic for many years. You could say that teaching and education is in my blood.

I love to teach. I love the way teaching and helping others helps me to come to an understanding of myself, of what I know and what I don’t know. I love the way students help me to see where my understanding is not clear and where it is. I love the way teaching, true teaching, is empowering. I also love the way in which an understanding that I have helps, even liberates others. Like all good teachers, I love it when the ‘lights go on’, when there is a stirring of recognition, an awakening in the mind of another person, when what I have shared with them really helps.

My most significant teaching experience was convening a masterate programme in mātauranga Māori at Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa, from 1996 to 2002. I really enjoyed running that programme as it offered me a way of exploring mātauranga Māori. I would use the classes to test my ideas with my students and they would often teach me something – sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.

I have also convened many hui wānanga over the years on a variety of topics. For example, I have conducted seminars on ‘The Creative Potential of the Māori Worker’ for Council of Trade Unions and the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union. I have also convened hui wānanga for my marae and continue to do so.

Following my time (2009-2014) as a research professor without teaching responsibilities at the University of Auckland, I decided to return to teaching in a freelance capacity. I think I missed teaching in that time.

Indigenous Creativity

Today, I teach to assist indigenous creativity. Whilst I might discuss a lot of historical material – iwi histories and traditions for example – my interest is to advance indigenous creativity, which contains two themes I describe as follows: 

  • New horizons, new possibilities for indigenous knowledge and worldview – looking at ways in which a new and reworked indigeneity may become a ‘gift’ to all humankind 
  • New horizons, new possibilities for indigenous people - particularly those communities, such as Māori, who experienced colonisation historically and are in a state of recovery and new development today

Hence, my interest is not merely to describe what our culture may have produced and expressed in history, but rather to utilise what we know from history to help inspire and inform our present, our contemporary creativity.

I have also found that there are many ways to teach, many approaches to teaching. I do conduct seminars in class rooms and other spaces, however, over the years I have become interested in utilising the environment in teaching and teaching through music and performing arts. I find these possibilities very interesting. Within the general field of indigenous creativity, I teach the following topics:

Māori Music

These seminars discuss what I call ‘the four worlds’ of Māori music, namely:

  • Māori participation in music and music making
  • Music which expresses, reflects and arises from the experiences of Māori people 
  • Music created to advance certain Māori causes 
  • Distinctive approaches to music and music making

This way of thinking about ‘Māori music’ is designed to be both an explanation of the major themes in history and as a way of inspiring and enabling new Māori music creativity today.

The Whare Tapere and related activities

Whare Tapere are iwi community based ‘houses’ of storytelling, dance, music, games, puppets and other entertainments. In recent years, I have been leading the creation of a modern whare tapere and have consequently run many wānanga with friends and colleagues such as James Webster, Louise Pōtiki-Bryant, Jack Gray, Horomona Horo and Eamon Nathan. We conduct seminars and wānanga on aspects of the whare tapere, which assists in preparing for the whare tapere we convene in Hauraki during the summer months. These topics include: 

Here is a video by TVNZ on 'The Origins and History of the Whare Tapere'. I appear in this video along with James Webster.

  • The artforms and expressions of the whare tapere
    • tākaro (games)
    • waiata (songs)
    • kōrero (stories)
    • karetao (puppets)
    • taonga pūoro (musical instruments)
    • haka (dance)
  • Philosophy, History and Literature of the Whare Tapere
  • Creating a Whare Tapere

Iwi Histories and Traditions

It is my honour and privilege to be invited to run wānanga on our marae sharing what I know about iwi histories and traditions. I discovered my interest in this topic in the early 1990s and have written a great deal on it. I have found that there is a lot of new researching, writing and sharing to be done with iwi histories and traditions. As our communities are in a state of reorganisation – catalysed by, for example, the settlement of Treaty claims – I am very interested in how we rework and re-present our histories and traditions in ways that assist our development today.

Indigenous Knowledge, Worldview and Mātauranga Māori

In the late 1980s I was introduced to the study of mātauranga Māori by Professor Whatarangi Winiata of Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa. Following this, I spent time with my granduncle Rev. Māori Marsden and much later I published The Woven Universe: Selected Writings of Rev. Māori Marsden. I became very interested in his thinking and used it as the basis of my research into mātauranga Māori and indigenous knowledge generally. In 2009, I published Te Ngākau, a text in Māori about knowledge with perspectives and ideas drawn from mātauranga Māori. Through these experiences, I have developed an approach to the study of mātauranga Māori which I share through my classes.

Keep an eye on my website here for information about my classes and seminars.