Igniting the vā: An Oceanic methodology in a Māori and Pasifika research fellowship

Year: 2019

Author: Smith, Hinekura

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

For centuries, Oceanic vaka, va’a and waka traditions enabled Pacific ancestors to undertake purposeful voyages that criss-crossed and connected our ‘Sea of Islands’, forming and reinforcing familial relationships, enabling trade and encouraging the exchange of story, histories and encounter. More recently, Oceanic researchers have theorised vaka in research to decolonise and reclaim research from our own paradigms. Returning to nautical notions of navigating the Pacific, rather than flying over it, encourages Maori and Pasifika researcher collaboration, not to further homogenise but, as many sang in the Aotearoa resistance movements during the 90’s “Kia kotahi mai te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa” – to bring the Peoples’ of the Pacific together.

In this presentation, I forward a collaborative theorisation of a va-ka methodology locating it in the practical context of a two-year research fellowship about Maori and Pasifika tertiary student ‘success’. Two researchers, one Maori one Tongan, lash together the Pasifika term va– relational time and space - with the Maori term ka - to ignite, to consider, to be in action. Bound together va-ka is a way to ignite the relational research space between Maori and Pasifika researchers to illustrate how we can come together to benefit our diverse Peoples of the Pacific. The Tongan proverb of lashing waka together - ‘pikipiki hamakae vaevae manava’– that guided our research fellowship journey is forwarded here as a way to strengthen Maori and Pasifika researcher relationships and in turn the relationships we share across the Pacific.