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New Year, new beginning for two Te Tumu academics

Monday 28 June 2021 11:05am

Photo of Kare Tipa and Emma Powell

The beginning of the Māori New Year also represented a new beginning for two Te Tumu lecturers starting out at the University of Otago.

Kare Tipa (left) and Emma Powell may have had different journeys to academia, but both share a vision for navigating, and transforming, the academy.

Tipa (Kāti Hāteatea, Te Aotaumarewa) and Powell (Kūki ‘Āirani Māori, Atiu/Mangaia) started at Te Tumu this month.

Tipa, who grew up in Green Island before teaching at Te Aho a Māui in the Hawkes Bay, says it’s rewarding returning home. She describes working alongside esteemed Te Tumu colleagues as “a privilege”.

After 13 years' work with marae-based pedagogy, Tipa sees differences with indigeneity’s visibility in Dunedin.

“Symbols of culture and the arts of Māoridom are not readily spotted. Te reo Māori is heard and spoken in limited vernacular environments.”

“By whakapapa and legacies, Māori are here as we always have been. Others may think it’s a privilege because our aesthetic is not widely heard or seen. In order for language acquisition to be supported here, the normalisation of Māori language, arts and culture need to be more visible.”

Powell also feels the pressure of the academic space; having come to Dunedin from Rarotonga, she says being Kuki Airani and working in the academy meant facing a sobering reality.

“There are few Cook Islanders working as tenured teaching and research academics in universities, a handful in Aotearoa alone. My family and I were acutely aware of this before I took up the position.”

This is a startling reality for Powell, especially given te ao Kūki ‘Āirani’s geographical complexity, because about 80,000 Cook Islanders call New Zealand home, while just 17,000 live in the Islands (which may have declined further following the COVID-19 pandemic). Powell says it’s likely most people with Cook Island heritage won’t ever call the Islands home.

“If I’m to think about the future for my people, and other Pacific people who have very similar circumstances, how can we go into the future without meaningful relationships with tangata whenua ki konei?”

Although moving into academia is intimidating, they are both tackling the responsibility and have a vision for the future. Powell is excited at the prospect of shaping how students think critically.

“To teach students to ask good questions, and to think differently about the relationships they have with each other and the relationships we have with our relations, our kin, in this place.

“To me that’s radical, that’s indigenous, that’s the futurity I’m interested in, to go back to those meaningful relationships, so we can live empowered lives for our rangatahi.”

The opportunity to work towards transformational change from within the academy is a clear driver for Tipa.

Tuatahi, ko te reo o ngā hapū o Araiteuru takiwā kia whānui te rongo – to widely hear the voices of this region. Ko ngā reo hoki o tēnā iwi o tēnā iwi ka whakatairangahia – other respective languages belonging to other iwi are celebrated.

Kia tū rangatira tātau, ka hao ai te rangatahi – to go and create more spaces for our people, mokopuna and rangatahi Māori to excel and see in. This is so our kids can walk into them and say, ‘yep, this is where I’m gonna sit’ with my tūrangawaewae, ko Aoraki Mauka te taumata.”