Kōrero tukuiho (stories of the past), with its tikanga, memory and thoughts, provide us with an avenue of not only survival but an enhancement of that survival. To some they seem fanciful but in reality they are gathered from a spiritual context and our everyday experiences woven together to create a complex manner of recording, passing information and understandings relevant to the continuation of our own cultural perspective.

The narratives come in different forms intertwined in a manner, not linear as in Western tradition with a beginning, middle and end, but rather in a spiral where if seen in three dimensions at different points, one overlapping the other creating a multi-layered effect where time, place and people are interconnected and part of a whole complex but differently ordered existence.

They can be transformed and transferred through the sounds and words of a waiata, the marks and patterns on wood, the weaving of fibre, the movement of haka or the painting on walls; the marks, sounds and movement intertwining into a multisensory experience that allows for the transference of tikanga, memory and thoughts to be passed on as a record and reference point.

The bearers or carriers of this information, be it voice, instruments, tools of use, painted/carved panels created specific for purpose, are enhanced with their own codes through symbols and motifs. The aesthetic is always important as through its various forms it enhances the kōrero and gives it gravitas and mana but it is not the primary function. The primary focus is to carry forward the feelings, information and mana.

Events happen, nothing is static and the only consistency we have at times is change. The ability to flexibly change, but change within the context of an established cultural background is a challenge. We face the past for the knowledge, tikanga and sense of place to where we stand in the centre not always knowing what is in the future, behind. In John Bevan Fords’ words “we need proven symbols of the past providing models by which new symbols may be judged’. The motifs and symbols and the way we perceive them in the present may be different in the presentation but will be based on the continuation and construction of the models from the past, changed and adapted to meet the needs for the present.

The whenua is marked with kōrero tukuiho, sculpted by the different forces of primal deities and trodden with the footprints of layers of people, called forth by the sound of the karanga, from human, manu, plant bone and shell connecting past and present as well as each other. Marked not with the monuments and construction of Western civilisation but rather by the form of the stone, the rise of a hill, or the shape of a mountain or river, the call of the manu and the waiata of the tohorā. These are the forms that hold the memories, the memories of landscape. Mohua is our landscape that has gone through challenges and changes, requiring adaptability and strength to maintain its mana over time. It holds our memories so that we can stand firmly in the present to progress to the promising unknown future.

It governs all aspects of the living from before birth into the world of light, Te Ao Mārama, into Te Pō, after the physical death. Its codes or tikanga intertwine and spiral like DNA, that whakapapa us back to ‘ Kei a te Pō te tīmatatanga o te waiatatanga mai te Atua. Ko te Ao mārama, ko te Ao tū roa. It was the night, that the Gods sang the world into existence. From the world of light, into the world of music - Robin Slow


art as featured in Tuku Iho

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