Pohewa Pāhewa: a Māori design kaupapa
Pohewa Pāhewa will be held at Objectspace from 1 Jul – 3 Sep 2023. This article has been re-shared with permission from Objectspace.
This article’s header artwork image: Raranga taura kūtai features taura (mussel ropes) woven by Tanya Reihana White with the support of John Kaulima-Panapa and members of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākeiweaving rōpū, Te Puāwai. Photograph by Sam Hartnett.
Pohewa Pāhewa celebrates Māori design practice and interrogates Western design practice through a Māori lens. Grounded in whakapapa, this exhibition shows the fundamental differences in how design practice is approached within te ao Māori and whom it is in service to.
Pohewa Pāhewa has been developed from whakaaro offered by Māori designers in wānanga across the motu. During these wānanga, Māori designers explained that healing is a fundamental motivation behind their practices. Healing might encompass relationships to whenua and with whānau, connections to whakapapa and understanding of identity, or acknowledging past trauma. This guiding principle is now a constant in Māori design practice – ingenuity, originality and invention all stem from a foundation of recovery and restoration.
Our understandings of design in Aotearoa have predominately focused on Eurocentric notions of practice – how consumer products, digital content or built environments are shaped by designers to solve a problem in an original way. This understanding often ignores the powerful influence of economic motivators and the environmental consequences of continuous change and production.
In contrast, Māori designers see the interconnected nature of their practice and the impact of what they create in the past, present and future simultaneously. Mahi is process driven, in direct kōrero with the whakapapa of place, people and materials to ensure that the mana of all involved is upheld. Embarking on a design kaupapa means an accountability to both tūpuna past and mokopuna yet to come.
Pohewa Pāhewa shares a collection of kaupapa that express Māori design as a balance of radical innovation and consideration of critical knowledge gifted by our tūpuna. From T-shirts to harakeke to paving stones, the exhibition revels in how simple materials can be wielded by designers to become something revolutionary and place tangata Māori in a better position than before.
The exhibition title was proposed by Bernard Makoare as a provocation for debate and discussion. It pairs two kupu that speak to the tension of the design process: ‘pohewa’ in relation to imagination; ‘pāhewa’ in relation to being mistaken or deluded. The combination of these kupu is an opportunity for us to consider how ideas become something remarkable, and how good design can transform ideas from imagination into reality.
Pohewa Pāhewa includes contributions from:
Jasmine Te Hira
Nichola Te Kiri
Tanya Reihana White
With exhibition design by Turumeke Harrington.