237.131 Conversations in Creative Cultures 237.131 Studio Notes Bachelor of Fine Arts

237.131 – Week #1 Notes

Week #1: Mana Atua and Knowledge Systems


There are about 50 people in this course this semester, which felt like more than the first semester’s 237.130 module. The tutors started out the session by doing an introductory exercise to get us on our feet and energised, which worked pretty well. I started out meeting the group of people who were not born in New Zealand, and then met the people in the group who are, like me, on the BFA course. There are about 8 of us, with the other students being on one of the design courses.

The main part of the session started with us watching the “Tātai Arorangi” episode of Project Mātauranga.

Project Mātauranga is a television series that investigates Māori world views and methodologies within the scientific community and looks at their practical application… This episode looks at tātai arorangi (astronomical knowledge), used to navigate the ocean, plant crops, harvest kaimoana, and to tell the time

Pokapū Akoranga Pūtaiao

This particular episode focussed on Māori astronomy, including connections to non-Māori astronomy.

What I picked up from the episode:

  • I need to find some Māori astronomy references.
  • Origin stories vary from Iwi to Iwi, so need to take care and not make sweeping statements like, “Māori believe …”
  • How were Māori astronomy stories translated by Pākehā into Western/mainstream concepts?
  • How do the researchers identify original sources?
  • What constitutes “raw information”?
  • Interesting: mainstream versus indigenous as comparative terms.
  • Is science not indigenous to India, England, France, whatever?
  • Not all Māori knowledge is for everyone – need to re-read the 237.130 article.

Digression on comparative terms

One of the speakers in the video used indigenous and mainstream to differentiate between the Māori and non-Māori world views. As noted above, indigenous is (to me) not a useful way of differentiating between the two, because one could argue that everything is invented somewhere, so we may as well say that the Theory of Gravity is indigenous to England. In my writing, if it’s necessary to differentiate, I will therefore use the following:

  • Traditional Māori …
  • Mainstream …
  • I’m not proposing to tag science as anything when referring to the universal subject. Science is not Western science or Eastern science or British science; it’s just “science”.
  • Where there is a need to differentiate between mainstream and fringe science, for example parapsychology versus chemistry, I will write “fringe science” and “mainstream science” respectively.

Class exercise

We split into small groups to discuss a few questions posed by the tutors on the video.

What did we learn that’s new?

None of us had heard of S.M.A.R.T, the Society Of Māori Astronomy Research & Traditions:

What did we already know?

Most of the information about traditional Polynesian navigation techniques – my group had come across this either at school through other sources.

I had seen information on this topic at the New Zealand Maritime Museum in Auckland:

What kind of creative work could we make to help explore this?

  • An interactive experience?
  • Game-ify the traditional Māori navigation process?
  • Create an artwork that shows how the night sky would appear, and how points in the sky could aid navigation?