My view on Mātauranga Māori and sustainability

My view on Mātauranga Māori and sustainability

Jenny Gatehouse is studying at the School of Design Innovation and was a summer scholar. As part of her scholarship she created a website that showcased the Living Pā as an example of sustainability and Mātauranga Māori coming together within the University.

The design won Jenny a Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Summer Gold Award for ‘Most engaging demonstration of research’. We caught up with Jenny to learn about her processes and experience designing the website.

What was the most important thing you wanted to achieve when creating the website?

The most important thing for the website was for it to lay out the connections between Mātauranga Māori and sustainability as simply, clearly and respectfully as possible. The hope is that staff and students might take the information on board and incorporate it into their understandings.

In my role as a designer, it was important to make sure it was aesthetic, and simple to navigate. My personal aim, however, as someone raised in a pākehā household, was making sure my imagery was correct, respectful, and inclusive.

I worked very hard to ensure that my work correctly depicted the values of Mātauranga Māori in practice, checking with David Hakaraia—deputy head of the school of design innovation—to ensure that this was the case. He gave me invaluable feedback to make sure the values were correctly represented, and made helpful suggestions when I was stuck.

What is your favourite part of the site? 

My favourite part of the site was also one of the hardest parts of it for me—creating an animation for the Whanaungatanga section. After consultation with David, I eventually came up with something that represented the value respectfully while also demonstrating it in an understandable way to a non-Māori audience. The idea was to show a group project, like a tree planting, and the connection between people of all types, the animals living there, and the place itself. The time and effort I spent to reach the final product made me appreciate the final product more, knowing I had met a brick wall and pushed on through it. I can look upon that animation with a sense of pride. Also, I adore the dog.

Were there any moments where you felt like you had a breakthrough? 

Teamwork was really invaluable to me on this project. My supervisors, Tonya Sweet and Andrew Wilks, gave me constant advice and feedback, and my friend and fellow summer scholar Caitlin Hall and I would look over each other’s work and give feedback.

I had a breakthrough moment following my discussion with friend and lecturer, Simon Ray. In design, it is always helpful to have a new set of eyes look in from time to time—new eyes offer new ideas. I had been struggling with how to depict the Living Pā, getting caught down in ideas of infographics and wanting to make everything as explanatory as possible. I forgot that the pictures were an optional support to the words, and not the other way around. Realising that pushed aside a huge wall for me.

The rest of the project was steadier. There were snags and obstacles, but they had less of an impact. Imagine the process being like a straight climb up a hill—sometimes it’s steeper and sometimes it’s easier. There were few times when the road broke off and I was left with a cliff face to climb. Quite often I found that if I left the problematic part alone for a day or two, I could keep making progress and the problem would present a solution of its own. Only a few of the cliffs didn’t seem to move as I would have liked, so step ladders like talking to colleagues about the problem and its potential fixes were required.

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