Decolonising knowledge practice cards that were circulated at the wānanga

Late in May, for two days and nights, seventy people from across Aotearoa gathered on Ōhākī Marae, in Reporoa, Waikato for the 'E Oho! Awakening Aotearoa - Mobilising for Action wānanga'. The wānanga connected hearts and nourished minds by using a range of techniques for sharing and learning together.

Lara Taylor (Ngāti Tahu – Ngāti Whaoa) hosted and convened the wānanga, with support from Manaaki Whenua Senior Researcher Alison Greenaway.

“E Oho is to awaken, to arise,” says Alison. “For this wānanga, I interpreted E Oho as that reaction that we have when we deeply learn something, physically feeling it in our bodies.”

The starting point of the wānanga was a call to explore Tiriti-led change for and with te taiao/the environment. Understanding the demands on kaimahi working in this field, and the challenges of the hau kāinga (Ngāti Tahu – Ngāti Whaoa) hosting them, it was important to Lara and Alison that they design the wānanga with care.

The Postcolonial Biosecurity Possibilities project (a sponsor for the wānanga) has found that “care-full science” – acknowledging and addressing the colonial legacies of science – is fundamental to care for and with te taiao.

“In our research, we hear from Māori scientists time and again, just how burnt out they are by having to keep pushing for Te Ao Māori biosecurity approaches,” says Alison.

Feedback was received from a delegate that they were near burnout, only to then feel rejuvenated through the design of the wānanga.

“That’s part of what care-full science can offer. Science that creates and enables care, rather than doing science that detaches us from each other, and detaches us from what we’re trying to look after, te taiao.”

 “A lot of thought went into the design of the wānanga. There were spaces for reading, creativity, eating together, being together.”

In designing what Alison calls a “whole bodied, wholehearted encounter” delegates were encouraged to connect with the research and tools being shared through whatever perspectives and relationships were tangible for them. The presence of families with children was a special aspect of the wānanga, with playful sessions offered for everyone, including hula hooping, ribbons, and acrobatics (with thanks to Circability).

“Exploring possibilities for decolonisation is not something you do as an individual. You need to do it in community and doing it with family is really important,” says Alison. “Everyone was encouraged to bring their family, and lots of people did. Having children there playing was important for the marae as well,” she adds.

“That was what I was hoping the wānanga would consolidate. By being together in a place that has a history of pain, a place that calls us to give it some attention, that together, we would have those ‘aha’ moments, learning to be with each other, and to be in relationship with the environment in different ways.”

At the wānanga, decolonising knowledge practices cards were shared, with ten sets presented in specially created boxes, as well as a poster explaining the work.

“I was quite careful about how we shared these cards,’ explains Alison. “I didn’t want to take up too much space workshopping the cards. It was more important participants met the people who had created the cards, then in future more focused workshops using the cards could be planned. We continue to get interest, particularly from people in the CRIs (Crown Research Institutes) to use the workshop process.”

“[The wānanga] was a relational space that enabled people to come in all their diversity,” says Alison. “To turn up however they wanted to, however they could. Our focus was on inviting people to attend wholeheartedly.”

Watch this video covering the wānanga to learn more.

The E Oho wānanga was co-funded by Ngā Rākau Taketake research theme Mobilising for Action; Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research; Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge and the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge.

Kerry Donovan Brown

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