In September, two Boffa Miskell landscape architects joined other Māori practitioners to begin a week-long residency in Toronto with other indigenous whānui (wider family communities) from across Canada and around the world.
The Connecting Indigenous Placemakers Residency was developed in partnership with Ngā Aho Māori Design Professionals Inc; the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations; and the University of Toronto, Scarborough.
The purpose of the residency was to generate discussions around opportunities that influence professional practice; share knowledge, tools and strategies; build and enhance indigenous whānui relationships and strengthen the visibility of indigenity withinin our urban environments.
Josephine Clarke (Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kahu) from Boffa Miskell’s Hamilton office and William Hatton (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Raukawa, Rangitāne, Muaūpoko) from the Auckland office were fortunate to attend the residency through Ngā Aho’s selection process.
The residency took place at Artscape, Gibraltar Point on the Toronto Islands known traditionally as Menecing meaning ‘on the island’. The island is recognised by the local indigenous people as a wāhi tapu (sacred place), wāhi rongoā (place of healing) and wāhi whakahirahira (place of significance).
“You could certainly feel the mauri of Menecin,” says William. “The peaceful island removed all sense of urban life. It felt as though I was on my own whenua — my own tūrangawaewae.”
Josephine recognised it would be an excellent opportunity to collaborate and reflect on learnings around influencing and informing projects to acknowledge and respect cultural processes and practice. Josephine wanted to share her experience working in the post-settlement Treaty space and cultural design with other indigenous practitioners.
“It was good to talk with our whanaunga in Toronto to understand their experiences and how they have managed to keep or to offer space for indigenous practice in urban environments. I enjoyed being a part of their cultural practices, learning about the different roles within their cultural structures,” Josephine says.
“I learnt about their cultural values and our indigenous commonalities, connecting us to land, water, sun and moon. I felt honoured to be trusted by the people where we shared stories around fire, food and art.”
William wanted to expand his understanding what it means to be indigenous in the 21st Century, and the meaning of whenua (land) from a wider indigenous worldview. William’s studio session looked to develop on current understanding of land exploring meaningful indigenous values, attributes and aspirations. He poised a series of questions around indigenous worldviews: What does whenua (land) mean? What does identity mean? What does an indigenous whenua entail?
“It was comforting to just be who we are — indigenous, celebrating our unique and distinct cultures.” William says, “As a practicing Māori landscape architect, it can sometimes be hard to express identity and indigeneity in the areas we work”. William was also given the opportunity to speak on behalf Ngā Aho whānui on the local radio station discussing what they aimed to achieve over the week and what placemaking means for indigenous whanui.
The residency allowed whānui to build and understand deep issues that indigenous people continue to face. The residency highlights the importance of growing and expressing indigeneity, challenging industry and practice to repatriate the concept of place to be reflective and celebrative of indigenous peoples.
26 November 2019