Johnson Witehira

Doctor of Philosophy, (Creative Arts)
Study Completed: 2013
College of Humanities & Social Sciences


Thesis Title
Tarai Korero Toi - Articulating a Maori Design Language

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

In view of the increased use of Maori iconography in design industries there is a need to develop guidelines that help maintain the integrity and intent of the Maori form and content, while enabling designers to express culturally significant messages. Mr Witehira’s work explored customary Maori arts, particularly Eighteenth and nineteenth century Maori carving, with the aim of developing tikanga (protocol) for contemporary Maori design practice. In doing so the research looked to ground contemporary Maori design practice within a Maori framework and Maori worldview. Mr Witehira also developed a new method of linear graphical analysis in order to establish the Maori elements and principles of design. These Maori elements and principles of design were then applied within three different design projects, Ko Aotearoa Tenei: This is Aotearoa, The Maori Alphabet Block Project and Whakarare: A Maori Typeface. By unlocking the language of this communication system, it is anticipated that future Maori designers will be able to use art and design to meaningfully communicate knowledge, ideas and values that are of significance to Maori.

Professor Bob Jahnke
Associate Professor Darryn Joseph