Lending Traditional Māori Artistic Structures to Academic Research and Writing: Mahi-Toi
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Māori (Indigenous New Zealand) researchers may have one or many mahi-toi (artistic) talents. All mahi-toi are ideas brought from the conceptual world to the physical realm by mahi-ā-ringa (work with hands), and the practitioner is the conduit. When the mahi-toi practitioner is also the researcher and vice-versa, the vernaculars in both circles enrich and give structure, depth and stability to each other. Despite divergences in materials and technologies across the disciplines, when traditional processes - such as carving, weaving, through to performing and composing kapahaka (Māori performing arts) - are placed side-by-side, the parallels between them are unmistakable. Every practice has distinctive pre-production, production and post-production phases that have survived long artistic histories. Setting the mahi-toi practices beside writing and researching lends an artistic, structural, theoretical and analytical framework that may be useful for both researchers (Māori and non-Māori) and mahi-toi practitioners, and particularly for practitioners who make the transition to academic research and writing. As an emerging academic and traditional arts practitioner, I had an epiphany as to why my writing and researching was not to the standard of my artistic practice: I was not translating the fastidiousness, self-editing, self-criticism, and caution taken in my arts into my writing and research. Focusing on poi, this paper explores Mahi-toi as a scaffolding for a theoretical framework and writing structure for Māori scholars - and it is hoped, beyond Māori - in arts disciplines.