Occupying the Third Space

The Location of Cultural Exchange

WORDS Tosh Graham

ARTWORK Natalie Couch

The notions of ‘hybridity and the third space’ from the discourse of postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha can be briefly defined as an alternative space that blurs the limitations of, and demonstrates the fluidity of the boundaries of cultural mixing. It engenders new possibilities that enable other positions to emerge (Meredith, 1998).
As part of a negotiated study course in 2014 I wanted to explore Māori values and principles as they apply to landscape architecture. As a means to investigate these issues I instigated a series of seminars to examine the following questions: Would knowledge of Maori values and principles give landscape architects a better perception of how to design cultural landscapes? Is knowledge about these cultural values sufficient or must they form part of your personal worldview in order to design for Māori? Has this knowledge influenced landscape architecture practice in general, for instance, is it regarded as an alternative, and possibly a better model? By posing these questions to specifically Maori speakers from their third space perspective I was attempting to foster a body of knowledge that would be informative and insightful to New Zealand landscape architects. I see these seminars as an example of ‘third space’ theory in practice where the cultural exchange creates benefits for all, where existing paradigms are challenged and new ground is broken in our practice. Bhabha’s ‘third space’ theory is not a lens through which I wish to examine these seminars; but rather a stance to gain a perspective, and with which to arrange my thoughts.

To answer my questions, I chose speakers I felt reflected different generations, different perspectives and intentionally not landscape architects. The speakers invited came from other disciplines. Haare Williams spoke about kaitiakitanga; guardianship, stewardship and protection and  management of the environment. Pita Turei discussed wairuatanga; the embedded emotional and spiritual connection with the environment. Malcolm Paterson talked about mauritanga; the life force or essence of the environment that provides all living things and every place with a unique personality and identity. The seminars were recorded and this essay is part summary and part reflection on the knowledge that was shared during the talks.
My learning journey is two fold.  First, I have gained confidence through the mechanics of organizing the seminars such as the process of setting a topic and finding speakers, advertising and recording public events.  Second, I have taken the speakers stories and voices to create my own understanding of the ways these topics may inform landscape practice. Through the process I have deepened my learning of these Māori values and principles. I believe this is a step closer toward a shared third space were non-Māori can share in and benefit from the perceptions and knowledge of the indigenous people of Aotearoa in the spirit of reciprocity.

The values and principles such as kaitiakitanga, wairuatanga and mauritanga that were discussed during the course of the seminars cannot be separated, disconnected, abstracted or categorised, nor can this group be viewed independently from other values and principles such as kotahitanga – collaboration, manaakitanga – hospitality, whanaungatanga – participation, rangatiratanga – leadership, orangatanga – health, matauranga – knowledge and understanding (Awatere, S., Rolleston, S., & Pauling, C. 2010). All must be considered as a unified whole that binds us to everything. They do not focus on any one facet of life but encompass all and everything. They are intricately woven threads that form a fabric, a korowai or cloak if you wish, that cover us all, the world in which we live, and they are universally humanising.

As I listened to the recordings from the seminars, the interwoven nature of these values and principles became apparent to me as the topics of each speaker crossed over and interlaced with that of the others. I discovered the strongest correlation between all of the seminars was the fundamental concept that Māori view themselves as indivisible from the land; it is not just part of their ancestry but an ancestor; and that an individuals identity is defined directly from the land. These perceptions of family and identity as connectors to the land gave very strong clues of how to apply the values and principles of kaitiakitanga, wairuatanga and mauritanga to landscape and a perspective for us as landscape architects to gain a stronger understanding of how they may be viewed and utilised in our practice.

Pita Turei began his seminar on Wairuatanga by reciting the pepeha of Wa Turuahi who was called to the first Maori Land Court sittings in the 1860’s - a time when vast amounts of land had already been confiscated from Maori. He was asked to identify himself through whakapapa and prove his ownership of his land:

“I nga rā o noa, he ika i tēnei whenua. I hutia mai ia Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga. Ko Ngati Kui te kaitiaki i roto.”
“In ancient times this land was a fish, hooked up by Maui Tikitiki a Taranga and Ngati Kui were the Guardians of this land”
Turuahi could have started by saying his great great grandmother was Rangihuamoa who was born on the day that the last moa egg was found in this land and that would have been enough. “But by commencing his whakapapa at the creation point of this land, he was able to give context through genealogy as the pretext of the relationship between Māori and land being a spiritual connection and how this spiritual concept is anchored to Māori.”

Malcolm Paterson, during his seminar on mauritanga described whakapapa as “the unifying thread of relationship”, so from Rangi-nui and Papatūānuku, and through their children Tāne Mahuta and Tangaroa there is an extended familial relationship of all the creatures that they created to us; and so birds, fish and other creatures, trees - these are all relatives of ours and we have a responsibility to them as whanau to look after those resources.” To elaborate on Māori considering themselves to be strongly connected to the environment and related to it and its constituent components, Paterson relayed some descriptive proverbs;  “Ko Papatūānuku te mātua o te Tangata - The earth is the parent of people”, “Te uri o Tane te uri o Tangaroa – Descendants of Tāne and of Tangaroa”, “Hineahuone – the first woman was made from clay”, ‘We are tangata whenua, the people of the land”, ‘Na te whenua ki te whenua – we return our placentas to the land”.

This then it is why whakapapa is so vitally central and important as it attaches Māori to the land and when reciting pepeha, naming your mountain, ocean, river, these markers not only tell where you are from but they also define you and your identity. All of these factors contribute to your personal mauri ora, in relation to the strength of your personal and cultural identity

When Haare Williams opened his seminar with a waiata that told of how the rito; the tender centre shoot of the harakeke plant is protected, his illustration of kaitiaki was one that also reflected the importance of whakapapa and whānau as the ‘tender shoot’ depicts the child or youth and the first two adjacent leaves are the mātua – parents, and then all of the other outer leaves are the tūpuna – ancestors. This is a metaphor and a model used to describe kaitiaki within family, but is also used in regard to sustainability: from that shoot grows the stem which produces the flowers then the seed and creation of future generations.

Haare also spoke of his grandparents and how they were kaitiaki to him, and the way in which they taught kaitiaki to him. He told the story of the day his kuia was watching a cockroach. He thought she was afraid of it and he killed it. This upset her deeply and she explained that he must have wehi – reverence toward all things of the natural world, and this I believe relates to what Malcolm spoke about in regards to “an extended familial relationship of all the creatures” and our responsibility as kaitiaki to care for them. Haare went on to say that he believed that  “what is missing in these times is reverence, for nature, for our ancestors and for each other.”
Haare established two strong perceptions of kaitiakitanga as a whole. As I see these applied to landscape the first pertains to our attitude toward the land and its ecology. The term that Haare used to describe this was reverence. Other words of definition could be respect, admiration, awe, devotion. The word devotion highlights the second insight, which is a description of how we should treat the land; as we would treat a child with kindness, gentleness, with the knowledge that our devotion to it will ensure that it will be strong and healthy, play a vital role in our future and that the world depends upon it.

The values and principles of Te Ao Māori are interwoven systems of belief and protocol. These seminars have shown that whakapapa and whānau are central to this ideology and vitally important. The seminars have taught me to consider the land to be an ancestor, and all of the creatures’ extended family, that there is a spiritual connection to it and that ones identity is directly derived from it. The land must be treated how you would an elder - with the respect and reverence, but at the same time gently and lovingly as you would a child. It is crucial that we as landscape architects give due consideration to these significant factors when designing landscape and make landscape modifications or placing structures and infrastructure. By doing so we can ensure that our decisions are both sensitive and sensible with a strong sense of perspective and that the cultural reciprocities give rise to better design and perhaps improved models to design by.

Although the questions that I posed were not answered directly, it is my opinion after having heard what the speakers had to say that knowledge of these values and principles can and do give landscape architects a better perception of how to design cultural landscapes and can influence our practice by providing alternative ways of working. It is unclear if just the knowledge of these cultural values is sufficient enough to accomplish this or if they must form part of your personal worldview in order to design for Māori not withstanding an open mind and heart to these things will go a long way toward cultivating a good relationship with Māori and the land that we share.

This brings me back to where I began when referencing ‘third space’ theory. When a colonised people are able to speak their indigenous truths having been educated in a western society, a type of hybridity or ‘newness’ has occurred. In this in-between space their boundaries are opened, allowing the freedom of sharing and cultural mixing (Berg, 2014). Bhabha imagines the discourse arising from this space to be where the ‘cutting edge of translation and negotiation’ occurs (Meredith, 1998). I believe that the seminars were delivered from this space, and what was offered was more than an insight into the values and principles being discussed. It was an invitation to assimilate and incorporate Te Ao Māori into all our lives enabling us to have a ‘third space’ to speak from.

For me, this study has raised more questions than have been answered, but in a world where no answer can truly be considered definitive, I believe this to be a positive and constructive thing. My journey continues.