Kākahu Hou: The Breath of Cloth
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This research explores the potential for fashion, film, and garment design investigations to act as knowledge catalysts. The project aims to restore & revitalise understandings of a Taranaki cosmological worldview that can inform and enhance knowledge exchange through artistic and design practice. Furthermore, the work explores the role of ‘Rongo’ (cosmological entity of peace, balance, and equilibrium), and how a deeper knowledge of Rongo can better enhance an understanding of creative design/art practices. Rongo plays a vital role in Taranakitanga. Rongo is used as a tool to personify a certain ‘being’ that shows characteristics able to enhance a better understanding of traditional and contemporary ideologies. Rongo is recognised in various ways but ultimately personifies characteristics of cooperation, consensus, and commitment. These characteristics result from struggles of colonisation particular to land confiscations in Taranaki and historical events that took place in Parihaka, and more specifically, land confiscation and loss of life in South Taranaki (Ngāti Ruanui). Taonga Tuku Iho (objects passed down from ancestors) carry these characteristics and preserve this knowledge through ‘Hau’ (breath of life). From this perspective, the project aims at providing Māori and nonMāori appropriate ways for developing creative methods using holistic cultural frameworks. Such frameworks include evolving Kaupapa Māori theories, oral stories, and significant Māori histories. But, more specifically, Taku Taranakitanga (Taranaki people) becomes the overarching perspective of this project and aims to position this research from a Taranaki, Ngāti Ruanui, Hāmua, Hāpotiki and Taiporohēnui Pā worldview. These frameworks are driven by auto-ethnographic methods and epistemologies of propositional knowledge (undocumented knowledge). Other ways of activating knowledges are explored, such as through reciting Karakia and oral expressions of propositional knowledge and knowledge transfer. Accordingly, this project will seek temporal understandings of Taonga through methods developed by way of design and contemporary art practices. It will visually examine how Rongo influences tikanga, a customary system of values and practices deeply embedded in a Māori social construct, specifically, through the concepts of Tapu and Noa. Creative outputs will harness the potential of Māori wanting to bind practices and methods pertaining to their own cultural backgrounds and enhancing cultural narratives. This has potential to reconnect future Māori to Indigenous thinking and processes for a wider understanding. This project aims to create decolonizing methodologies within Western contexts, centering Indigenous knowledge. Significant research problems that will arise through this practice-led project will involve the concept of Rongo and Taranaki Taonga being transformed into new revitalised interpretations.