Whakapapa is an analytical tool

Yey – an essay on whakapapa and its role in education… I have been interested in the possibilities of this for a while…

Wharehuia Hemara argues “that whakapapa was created as an important and valuable, yet underused, educative tool. It is a gathering of research and analysis that covers history, property rights, resources married to identity, and codes of behaviour between all that exists, with a particular focus on human relationships.” (p.126)

Whakapapa is an analytical tool traditionally employed by Māori to understand the following:
– the nature of phenomena
– the origin of phenomena [-p.123]
– the connections and relationships to other phenomena
– describing trends in phenomena
– locating phenomena
– extrapolating and predicting future phenomena.

The high esteem in which ancestors are held governs the way individuals and communities view themselves in relation to all that exists. Whakapapa codifies existence and the self by relating individuals to communities, which in turn are linked to larger communities, different species and life-forms and the unknown. Like mythology, one of its vital functions:
‘is to foster the centering and unfolding of the individual in integrity, in accord with… himself (the microcosm) … his culture (the mesocosm) … the universe (the macrocosim) … and … that awesome ultimate mystery which is both beyond and within himself and all things.’ (Campbell, 2001, p.6)

While there is ample evidence that esoteric influences have percolated through a mass of queries and resolutions, whakapapa can also be interpreted as a secular construct that explains everything from the prosaic to the arcane.” (pp.122-123)

Whakapapa could be viewed as a junction between the natural and speculative worlds. To underline this point, it is proposed that this junction underscores all social engagements and emphasises its particular roles as both a curriculum subject and a pedagogical practice. To discover whakapapa’s part in these roles, and reach some understanding of how they function within Māori educational environments, it is important to appreciate how, and on what, Māori base their social mores and launch [-p.124] intellectual enquiry. What is known is that from enquiry emerges knowledge, which leads to further enquiry. Here, continual generation creates its own whakapapa, disciplines and universal associations.… Whakapapa can also be described as an esoteric and organic entity which acts as a vehicle for explaining existence while creating zones of understanding between individuals, communities and the universe. It is argued that whakapapa brings together communities, their histories and resources and helps to link everything to everything else.” (pp.123-124)

Whakapapa as narrative

Hemara goes on to explain: “Viewed through a particular lens, whakapapa could be defined as a grand narrative that contains elements common to many other cultures. After all, narrative, and by default whakapapa, could be defined as: ‘simply like life itself … [-p.125] international, trans-historical, trans-cultural … [that] ceaselessly substitutes meaning for the straightforward copy of …events’ (Barthes, 1977, p.79).

Narrative encapsulates various moral codes and social conventions. Narratives such as whakapapa are a combination of ancestral roll-calls, historical events and expressions of a full range of human emotions, reactions and celebrations.” (pp.124-125)

“Today the world is confronted with exponentially expanding information technologies whose structures and still nascent philosophical foundations peculiarly mirror parts of whakapapa.” (p.142)

Ref: Wharehuia Hemara, Whakapapa as Pedagogical Practice and Curricula: The Collision of Space, Time and Matter, pp.122-145 in Ed. Paul Whitinui (2011) Kia Tangi Te Tītī – Permission to Speak: Successful schooling for Māori students in the 21st century issues, challenges and alternatives. NZCER Press: Wellington


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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2 Responses to Whakapapa is an analytical tool

  1. Wharehuia Hemara says:

    Kia ora e hoa,

    It’s over two years since I last used facebook. Now I’m back. Thank you for your comments. I’ve been thinking that I might reconfigure my doctorate to a publish-ready text book. What do you think.?

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