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Focus on Indigenous storytelling in new UC qualification

05 October 2022

Two new University of Canterbury (UC) courses will empower ākonga to explore Indigenous representation as we move from traditional storytelling to digital and mainstream media.


In 2020, Aotearoa New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi (Te Whanau-ā-Apanui) won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his film Jojo Rabbit. In accepting the award, Waititi dedicated it to Indigenous children around the world telling them: “we are the original storytellers”.

It’s a worldview shared by University of Canterbury (UC) academics Hamuera Kahi (Ngāti Paoa, Tainui) who is Deputy Head of Aotahi School of Māori and Indigenous Studies, and Dr Kirsty Dunn (Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi), a Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts, and the basis for two new courses the pair created for debut in 2023.

The Indigenous Narrative minor gives ākonga an understanding of the approaches to Māori and Pasifika storytelling in digital forms, while the Certificate in Indigenous Narrative is a standalone qualification, ideal for those in the creative media industries interested in improved representation of Māori, Pasifika and other Indigenous cultures in their work.

SDG4-Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education

The fundamental principle of both courses is to foster and cultivate the use of Māori and Pasifika storytelling across different domains and industries in Aotearoa New Zealand, Kahi says.

“Our degree will enable students to develop their understanding of where our stories come from. Having to collaborate, be the representative, the storyteller for our communities comes with responsibilities and obligations,” he says.

It’s a chance to reflect on and celebrate what’s come before, and inspire what comes next, Dr Dunn explains.

“It’s a real push to elevate and celebrate our own storytelling while also casting a critical eye on representations of us,” she says.

The minor is the only focused specialisation on Indigenous narratives in Aotearoa New Zealand and despite being specially designed to accompany UC’s new Bachelor of Digital Screen with Honours (BDigiScreen) – the first curriculum available under the University’s Digital Screen Campus programme – the minor can be aligned to any degree offering available from the University’s seven faculties.

As a catalyst to both inform and educate, the cross-disciplinary aspects of the courses introduce valuable opportunities for relationship building within different academic fields and faculties at UC as well as outside of the University.

“I feel like it’s part of a wider movement and it’s necessary,” Dr Dunn says of the new programme. “It’s going to be a really cool demonstration of the products of relationships and collaboration.”

“There are clear examples in recent history where narrative is really important,” Kahi says, highlighting the case of New Zealand broadcaster, Oriini Kaipara, who has spoken publicly about her moko kauae following her appointment to presenting TVNZ’s One News.

“The way we give our narrative, our stories about who we are, is going to complement any degree programme.”

To support students completing the Indigenous Narrative minor, UC have established Te Whare Pūrākau, an academy offering annual scholarships to Māori and Pasifika/Pacific students and other Indigenous students, to gain mentorship and leverage from classes and wānanga with industry experts.

“We’re anticipating doing fun things, doing serious things, but spending time in wānanga with students on this kaupapa, from their first year, is really exciting,” Kahi says.

Enrolments for 2023 are open now.

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