Noho Marae: A sleepover with purpose...
How would you enjoy spending 48 uninterrupted hours with every single one of your work colleagues?
Eating, talking and preparing food together. Sleeping in the same room, on mattresses placed on the floor.
For the designers of ThinkPlace New Zealand it was very much an exciting prospect, as the recent Noho Marae – held just outside Wellington -- proved.
This was a chance to get together, be immersed in a powerful cultural experience and talk about designing in a nation where Maori hold a special place and creating interventions that will affect their lives carries a special responsibility.
We spoke to ThinkPlace Wellington’s Keita Twist (who has tribal connections to Ngati Manawa, Tuhoe, Tainui, Te Arawa through her father and Tuwharetoa through her mother) and Auckland Studio’s Peter Harrison (who does not) about this important event, now in its second year.
TP: ThinkPlace NZ has recently been holding a Noho Marae, what is that?
Keita – A Noho Marae is where you go to immerse yourself in Te Ao Māori, traditional hospitality, customs and cultural practices passed down from our ancestors to us. Like The welcome on to the marae, where you learn about tangata whenua (people of the area) their mana whenua (right to manage their land) the rohe (area) and their stories (history).
Peter: Literally, it means a sleepover on a Marae. Noho means “to stay in or occupy a space”.
Marae is a very important word. The Marae is the centre of culture, language, storytelling, and connection. It’s a large house, made up of different spaces for different activities.
And there is clear tikanga (protocol) around how to conduct yourself on the Marae.
Keita: The Noho is a gathering. You sleep, laugh and live together. Under the same roof. It builds trust and it’s a safe place to share, to be together and to work towards a shared purpose. I spent a lot of my youth on a Marae, Rangatahi is home. It’s where I belong. It’s where I will go to be buried. It’s my pito: the cord that connects the baby to the mother.
TP: Who was involved? How long did it last for?
Peter: The entire ThinkPlace NZ team of almost 30 people for two days and one night.
Keita: Our team had people who had only been in the country for three weeks. We had waewae tapu - people who had never been this marae, or any marae before. Others, like me, felt very comfortable. We were fortunate that our hosts Suzanne and Francis stayed with us for the duration of the Noho, sharing in our learning, walking with us and at times guiding us.