Wairua of the Whenua: A Journey of Reconnection through Ōkere Falls

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Papatūānuku and Ranginui - The Threshold Space at the Beginning of the Journey

Wairua refers to the intangible spirit or soul of a person existing beyond the body. Wairua of the whenua translates to spirit of the land, in essence, personifying the whenua and relating back to the spirit that encapsulates the ancestors, histories, and narratives of the land.

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Through colonisation, industrialisation, and modernisation, our relationship to the environment has become severed over time while valuable matauranga Māori—Māori knowledge—was often left behind. Given the current climate crisis, we are now bearing the brunt of the consequences of a lack of connection or care for the environment, hence, it is crucial to understand how we might reconcile with the land. From a Māori perspective, all living beings are connected with the environment. We are Tangata Whenua, people of the land. Therefore, how can we reconnect people to the wairua of the whenua through an understanding of the Te Ao Māori worldview?

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Cascading Waters Moment - Terracing Lookout over Ōkere Falls
Waka Moment 2460 x 1580
The Te Arawa Journey Moment - Reflecting on the Waka Journey from Hawaiki to Maketū
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Turangawaewae Moment - A Place for the Feet to Stand

This thesis explores wider themes of identity and land, while positioning the research within my own ancestral whakapapa and connections to whenua relating to the Te Arawa iwi, Arawa waka and Ngāti Pikiao hapū. This research sets the context for a new wairua centre situated throughout the Ōkere Falls walkway alongside the Kaituna awa, which Ngāti Pikiao of Te Arawa historically followed from Maketū Pā towards Lake Rotoiti. This walk is explored through eight architectural moments, each encapsulating a part of the historical and cultural narrative relating to the whenua.

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The Journey through Ōkere Falls

Through this, we come to know where we are through knowing where we’ve been, therefore shaping where we will go. The proposition contributes to wider conversations of our bicultural identity within Aotearoa and our relationship and engagement with whenua.

Merging Collage 2460 x 1580

Ko au te whenua, ko te whenua ko au - I am the land and the land is me

Cloak Collage 2460 x 1580