Tool - Filmmaking - Introduction to the M-üori Worldview

Tool: Introduction to the Māori Worldview
Te Ao Mārama
The way a particular culture views the world is expressed through the myths and traditions
concerning the creation of the world. It presents a perspective on how all phenomena have
come into existence, referring to both the tangible (natural phenomena) and intangible realities
(values, qualities and levels of consciousness). Royal (1998) explains that Māori epistemology,
and cosmology for that matter, are contained in the concept of Te Ao Mārama.
[The] Māori knowledge system, which includes whakapapa, karakia, technology and so on, in
their totality, can be referred to as the Te Ao Mārama worldview and philosophy. (p. 23)
Whakapapa - which literally means ‘to create a base, a foundation’ - encapsulates two kinds of
knowledge: tātai (the word for genealogy) and kōrero (the stories and narratives that discuss
those items noted in the genealogy). Thus, whakapapa ‘refers to the act of creating a foundation
or base through the recitation of genealogies and stories’ (Royal 2010). It communicates both
the genealogy of phenomena and the genealogy of people. The genealogy of phenomena details
the order of the coming into existence, from the immaterial to the material aspects of our
reality, whereas the genealogy of people details the lineage of whānau (family), hapū (subtribe) and iwi (tribe). The Māori whakapapa of phenomena is complex and specific. It develops
logically from the Root Cause (Io), the primordial beginnings of the Void (Te Kore) and the
Night (Te Po), to the more specialised objects of the natural world. Although it is beyond the
scope of this study to present a comprehensive overview of these causal relationships, it is
note-worthy to see, as an example, that in this whakapapa Te Wānanga (Learning) begets Te
Hauora (Well-being). Royal (1998) interprets this to mean ‘that well-being is the outcome of
learning and education […] and that a process cannot be called educative if well-being is not the
outcome’ (p. 55).
Of central importance to Māori cosmology is the separation of Ranginui (Sky Father) and
Papatūānuku (Mother Earth), which marked the emergence of Te Ao Mārama (pp. 47- 51). This
event symbolises the separation of male and female principles - giving space to each. It not only
created space but also introduced light, necessary for the development of their offspring and
the natural world. Light in this context refers to the natural phenomenon, as well as the
metaphorical sense of enlightenment or growing understanding of how things are. Royal
(1998) suggests that the carved ancestral meetinghouse (wharenui) is perhaps the best-known
symbol of Te Ao Mārama. The roof symbolises Ranginui, the floor Papatūānuku, and the pillars,
upholding the roof, represent the posts used by Tāne to lift his father, thus separating his
parents. Above the doorway is a carving of Hinenui-i-te-pō - the Māori goddess who guards the
passage between life and death - thus making the doorway the symbolical transition from Te Pō
to Te Ao Mārama (pp. 59-60).
In The Woven Universe - the selected writings of Rev. Māori Marsden (Royal, 2003) - Marsden
suggests that ‘the Māori had a three-world view, of potential being symbolised by Te Korekore,
the world of becoming portrayed by Te Pō, and the world of being, Te Ao Mārama’ (p. 20).
The word ‘kore’ means ‘not, negative, nothing’. When the root of a word is doubled in Māori,
it intensifies in meaning. […] How is it possible to intensify that which is already absolute? By
means of a thorough-going negativity, that which is negative proceeds beyond its limits and
assumes the characteristics of the positive. […] Thus Te Korekore is the realm between nonbeing and being: that is, the realm of potential being. (p. 20)
One possible way of grasping this process is to compare it with the cultivation of a seed. The
seed (Te Korekore) contains the potential of a full-grown plant or tree, the process of cultivation
(Te Pō) is what brings out the potential, and the result of a successful process of cultivation is
the coming into existence of the plant or tree (Te Ao Mārama). This three-fold process of
creation - as we shall see later in this chapter - can be linked with the three stages of the
devising process, whereby the point of departure is the potential or the seed, the devising
process the becoming or the process of cultivation, and the performance the world of being or
the fruition.
Core Values
Of fundamental importance to the Te Ao Mārama philosophy are the six fundamental
values/concepts of: manaakitanga, rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga, tohungatanga, ūkaipō,
and kotahitanga (Royal 1998: pp. 215-216). In this section we will discuss the meaning and
interpretation of each of these six values, based on the keynote address by Dr Charles Royal
(2009) at a New Pacific Theatre wānanga on Matiu/Somes Island in preparation for the
performance Ex_isle of Strangers (Dir. Bert van Dijk, 2010).
Mana is the core concept in manaakitanga - it is the essence or the reality of a being. It is not
the same as power, as so many people seem to think. Mana relates to the spiritual essence,
whereas mauri relates to the physical or body essence. Mana aki is ‘to uplift mana’. The word
tanga is ‘the art of’. Therefore, manaakitanga is the art of uplifting mana. It is the mutual
uplifting of one another’s spiritual essence.
Ranga means ‘to weave’ and tira refers to a group with a certain purpose. Therefore
rangatiratanga is the art of weaving together groups of people who share a certain purpose.
Charles used in this context the image of a school of fish, or a flock of birds. They are united by a
desire to act in unison. There is a strong sense of goodwill: they want to be together. Another
aspect of this image is that each member of the group can influence the direction the group
takes and as such there is a sense of shared leadership or collaboration. The value or concept of
rangatiratanga corresponds strongly with the collaborative nature of devising theatre, but
adds a poetic image and specific Māori dimension to it. Collaboration and the value of
rangatiratanga form one of the four core strands of a New Pacific Theatre (see chapter eight).
Whānau literally means birth. All life is birthed. Whānau then is a group of individuals who
share in the one life - facilitating one another. Whanaunga is a relative and it is important to
understand that for Māori the whole world is one whānau. Therefore, whanaungatanga is the
art of relating and relationship. In this context life is understood through relationships, and
everything is in a state of interconnectedness. We saw in chapter one, that Bishop (2005)
identified whanaungatanga as a core value of Kaupapa Māori Research. The concept of
interconnectedness is not uniquely Māori. It is, for example, also a core notion of Buddhist
philosophy, and expressed in the notion of the oneness of self and the environment.
Whanaungatanga became a core focus and strategy during the creative development of Ex_isle
of Strangers, and will be adopted as one of the supporting pillars of a New Pacific Theatre
Tohu literally means symbol. Metaphorically speaking it describes the arrival of mana in a
physical vessel. The Māori proverb ‘Ka tohungia tēnei tangata’ refers to the circumstance that
this particular person is anointed. In other words mana (the spiritual essence) has arrived. A
tohunga then is a person who is a vessel of mana, and subsequently is able to see things in a
new way (illumination), and call to action. Therefore, tohungatanga is the art of bringing about
mana in physical vessels. In theatre this could be seen to correspond with the process of filling
the vessel of physical and vocal actions with feeling, intention or imagery. In other words, it is
the process of giving quality to the form, thus lifting the actions into an artistic realm.
The word ū means ‘breast milk’, the word kai is ‘to consume’, and pō relates to darkness.
Therefore, ūkaipō is ‘breast-milk consuming the darkness’. It refers to physical places in which
we are renewed, healed, nourished, and brought back to life (Te Ao Mārama). These places are
different for everybody. Charles (2009) quoted the Māori proverb ‘E hoki koe ki tō ūkaipō; kia
purea koe i ngā hau o Tāwhirimātea’. This proverb, or whakataukī, means: return to your ūkaipō,
to be cleansed by the winds of Tāwhirimātea. Ūkaipō refers to a special place, or activity, that
nurtures the soul. This place or activity is unique and different for each one of us. For some it
could be walking down the beach, for others to be at home - listen to beautiful music, or to go
out to dance or sing, and so on. It is one of the central functions of the whare tapere - and, I
maintain, for all theatre - to provide spiritual nourishment to its participants (performers and
We live in a world of duality and separateness: good/bad, darkness/light, etc. Kotahitanga is
about overcoming separateness - building wholeness in a world of divisions. Although the
strong focus on division may disguise our connectedness, the reality is that we don’t live in
isolation, but instead are part of an interwoven web of being in the world. The value of
kotahitanga aims to foreground the equality and oneness of all being - a mission that is also at
the heart of Buddhist practice. Daisaku Ikeda (1982) explains that when Shakyamuni, the
original Buddha, attained enlightenment under the bodhi (fig) tree more than 2500 years ago,
he discovered ‘the wonderful truth that all phenomena and human lives are mutually related,
influential and permeating’ (p. 84). It is a delusion to regard our existence as separate and
independent from all phenomena and the laws of nature. This delusion causes us to experience
birth, old age, illness and death as sufferings. When this attitude ‘is abandoned in favour of the
belief that the individual life is closely connected with the great universal life-force’, our unity
in diversity becomes apparent (p. 85). Kotahitanga provides a strong and meaningful guide to
overcome separateness, supporting the mission of a New Pacific Theatre to connect.
Cited Resources:
Ex_isle of Strangers. Dir. Bert van Dijk. Site-specific performance, Matiu Somes Island, New
Zealand, April 2010. Performance.
Royal, Charles. Matiu Wānanga. Matiu Somes Island. January 31 2009. Keynote address.
Royal, Charles. Te Whare Tapere: Towards a Model for Māori Performing Arts. Wellington:
Department of Theatre and Film, VUW, 1998. PhD thesis. Print.
Royal, Te Ahukaramū Charles (Ed.). The Woven Universe: Selected Writings of Rev. Māori
Marsden. Otaki: Estate of Rev, Māori Marsden, 2003. Print.
Royal, Charles. Exploring Indigenous Knowledge. Paper delivered for “The Indigenous
Kowledges Conference – Reconciling Academic Priorities with Indigenous Realities”,
Royal, Te Ahukaramū Charles. “Why Methodology? Kaupapa Māori and Mātauranga Māori
Royal, Te Ahukaramū Charles. “Ōrotokare: Towards a New Model for Indigenous Theatre and
Performing Arts.” Performing Aotearoa: New Zealand Theatre and Drama in an Age of
Transition. Ed. Marc Maufort and David O’Donnell. Brussels: P.I.E. Peter Lang S.A., 2007.
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