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“Reinstating Mana Whenua narratives back on the whenua”: Te Tumu Seminar series guest Megan Potiki

In a thought-provoking and timely session given the ongoing celebrations of Matariki, Kāi Tahu and Te Ātiawa academic Megan Potiki presented as part of the 2023 Te Tumu Seminar Series on Wednesday this week. Her talk centred around the work of creating mana whenua narratives for various building and development sites around the city and the wider Ōtakou region. This includes work for puna kaukau, the police station, the hospital, George St, the university re-brand, Auahi Ora – Union, and Tunnel Beach. She’s also been part of the Te Rangihīroa student accommodation build in collaboration with Ngāti Mutunga of Taranaki.

Megan’s characteristic humour and honesty about the process of creating these narratives was both refreshing and profound. She stressed the importance of “getting it right with your own people”, being able to own your mistakes, and putting in the work to finding multiple credible sources. It’s also important to know when to give, when to take people with you and when to push for change. There is both privilege and responsibility that comes with being able to grow up living and learning from your own whenua and also for those who return to their roots.

Ultimately, Megan’s talk high-lighted the importance of bringing to life stories that are deeply rooted in the knowledge, practices and people of this whenua. The process of writing a narrative is complex, requiring a lot of research, collaboration, and hard work particularly when collaborating with your own hāpu. Names have power, and reinstating the mana associated with those names is vital in redressing some of the mamae caused by colonisation, and also celebrating the wealth and wisdom of generations that have come before us.

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