Māori spaces in foreign places Hinemihi o Te Ao Tawhito
The whare tūpuna, Hinemihi o Te Ao Tawhito, an ancestral meeting house, built in 1881 in Te Wairoa, Aotearoa is now located in Surrey, England. Despite radical changes in cultural, social, economic and geographic landscapes over the past 128 years, the whare continues to epitomise a distinct Māori cultural identity. How Hinemihi has managed to sustain this cultural identity despite its geographic dislocation from her homeland is the focus of this thesis.
A theoretical engagement with history and the utilisation of kaupapa Māori as an analytic framework reveals that Māori cultural identity can be nurtured and sustained outside of traditional Māori contexts. The historical material is provided in whakapapa kōrero, or tribal narrative, at hui, wānanga being forums of higher learning and in tribal reports, publicly available archival documents, historical literature, contemporary accounts, multimedia documentaries, government records and newspapers. The result is a focused kaupapa Māori study which provides an original and interpretative social history of Hinemihi as well as advancing Māori scholarship in the field of history, Māori identity and cultural landscapes.
In this particular case, the social history exhibits the dichotomous nature of Hinemihi in that distinctions can be made between two discrete whānau groupings associated with the whare. First there is the whakapapa whānau or Ngāti Hinemihi/Tūhourangi who are the tribal peoples descended from the original owners of the whare and who trace their identity to Hinemihi, the ancestress from whom the whare is named. And second there is the kaupapa whānau which consists of many people or communities who have been brought together through various non-kin relationships they have with the whare. Paradoxically, the whare promotes unity where people come together to be part of the wider whānau of Hinemihi, as well as highlighting dialectic tensions between the communities associated with the whare. Through the juxtaposition of cultures, different historical visions, systems of knowledge and representations of meaning, the research concludes that Māori cultural identity is as much about displacement and tension as it is about established tribally determined criterion of identity, primarily related to whakapapa association and connection to place.
The research further argues that the history, location and hybrid nature of this whare and her communities reflect broader social contexts, particularly with respect to changes in Māori society from localised tribal communities to a global Māori diaspora. While some contemporary social contexts challenge Māori tribal discourses of identity and relationships, change is not new, and the thesis provides an example of the symbolic and metaphoric character of mātauranga Māori, contextualised here as systems of Māori knowledge. As the social and locational contexts of Māori change so too do Māori cultural landscapes and identity.