Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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A’oa’o le tama e tusa ma ona ala, a o’o ina matua e le toe te’a ese ai: If we fail to construct our own realities, others will do it for us

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posted on 2021-11-23, 09:55 authored by Matautia, Saint Andrew Palauni

Guided by both my own journey as a Pasifika student and the ideology of Tongan academic Dr. Hūfanga Okustino Māhina, this research seeks to identify ways in which indigenous knowledge can become an integral component within education, specifically design education in New Zealand. This research focuses on the struggles Pasifika students face within an aesthetic education that has within its history, a proud claim for the removal of cultural, religious and historic references from its aesthetic vocabulary. I will argue that the absence of indigenous culture, initiated by the early modernists to embrace the universal, is no longer an appropriate model within design education as it struggles to address cultural diversity in both its content and delivery. The solution, I suggest is not an “either or” scenario but a recognition that knowledge comes from many cultures and contexts. This thesis explores the indigenous beliefs of tā, time and vā, space. It identifies the relevance these and ideologies derived from them, offer design pedagogy. Using visual ethnography, indigenous research methods and photography, I investigate and document traditional indigenous ceremonies and undertake talanoa, oral histories, in order to discover the opportunities and relevance they offer design education.  Having compared and contrasted Eurocentric models and indigenous practices I identify and illustrate current initiatives that attempt to change the status quo. This thesis endeavours to tell the story of Pasifika students through a personal lens and identifies Moana ideologies that can be introduced to design curriculum that establish beneficial pathways forward for not only Maori and Pasifika students in design education but design education and thinking as a larger context. As a nexus to this research, I have designed and curated a selection of five photographs to illustrate the journey of indigenous knowledge, practice and language through design education. These photographs pay homage to my cultural ideologies, represent the narrative behind my motivations and illuminate the reciprocal need to nurture the space between Moana students and design education.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Culture and Context

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Design Innovation

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Design


O'Sullivan, Nan