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By Ngaroma Williams and Michelle Anderson
with peer-review by Dr Mere Skerrett
Aotearoa is a nation that is founded upon a partnership between two cultures. These two cultures have tried to reach a shared understanding on many things, some with great success, and some less so. A shared understanding is needed for any relationship to work. A shared understanding comes through dialogue or kōrero and it is alright to agree to disagree. It is often said never talk about politics and religion unless you want a fight. But it is the silence that creates misunderstandings and barriers for relationships.
The hardest words to understand in one’s mind may well be the intangible concepts that have different meanings based on culture and experiences which are culturally bound. The words we use in one language and translate into another can limit how we understand their meaning. This makes it challenging and difficult to articulate, but not impossible to explain a concept or word. Misunderstanding or miscommunication can happen by not seeking clarification and therefore assuming a word means what you think or understand it to be, but how do you make meaning of what you do not understand? Te Whāriki speaks of wairua and the need for holistic development but what does this mean and what does it look like?
We came to write this article through asking questions, seeking clarification, providing each other examples of our own experiences, and then highlighting what these experiences look like using teaching and learning narrative approaches. We then reflected and considered deeply what was shared. This process has brought us close to a shared understanding of wairua.
What is wairua? A Māori understanding shared by Ngaroma Williams
Ko Ranginui rāua ko Papatūānuku ngā mātua o ngā tāngata
The Sky Father and Mother Earth are the parents of humans
Wairua incorporates conceptual and philosophical Māori theoretical frameworks which are embedded within whakapapa. Whakapapa within this context means: genealogical and past implementations that set down precedents and rationales for present and future interpretations and applications.
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