Whatu: A Māori approach to research

Lesley Rameka


Kaupapa Māori research can be viewed as a movement of resistance and revitalisation, incorporating
theories that are embedded within te ao Māori (the Māori world) (Berryman, 2008). It operates from
a Māori cultural frame upholding the validity and legitimacy of being Māori and acting Māori. For
this reason it is more likely to reflect Māori truths and be articulated and endorsed by Māori (G.
Smith, 1992). The objective of Kaupapa Māori research is initiatives that result in positive outcomes
for Māori, such as improved services, more effective use of resources; more informed policy
development and increased knowledge. “By taking a position that challenges norms and assumptions, Kaupapa Māori research involves a concept of the possibility and desirability of change” (Barnes, 2000, p. 5). Whatu (finger weaving) is an approach to Kaupapa Māori research which utilises the metaphor of weaving research kākahu (clothing), korowai (cloaks), kete (baskets) or garments. Whatu involves weaving participants’ contributions, Kaupapa Māori theory, Māori ways of knowing and being, technologies and knowledge, across and within historical, cultural and socio-economic discourses and paradigms. These paradigms are described by L. Smith (1999) as sites or terrains of struggle which that are selected or select themselves because they are important to Māori.

This paper discusses a personal journey of discovery involving the development of a whatu kākahu
framing for a Kaupapa Māori research project. The project involved the weaving of Māori values,
understandings and epistemologies within and across the context of early childhood teaching,
learning and assessment theory and practice.


Weaving; kaupapa Māori; whakapapa; research

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DOI: 10.15663/wje.v20i2.204


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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015