For the next few weeks six AUT University students have the chance to explore the similarities and differences between Māori and Taiwanese cultures in Taiwan, with the Atayal Organisation.
The Te Ara Poutama (Māori Development) Faculty students will be spending two weeks in Taiwan visiting universities, indigenous cultural sites and exploring the similarities and differences between the Māori people and the people of Taiwan.
The students are part of the Tap Root Cultural Exchange Programme and were invited to take part last year when they met Tony Coolidge, executive director of the Atayal Organisation, at the Wairoa Film Festival.
“I was invited to the Māori Wairoa Film Festival to screen my film, Voices in the Clouds and I was surprised to see the interest the Māori had in learning more about the "Austronesian" tribes of Taiwan, which resemble Polynesian peoples more than the Chinese inhabitants. Meeting the AUT students at the film festival, and seeing their enthusiasm and interest for Taiwan, I decided I would make our next project a cultural exchange for the Māori in Taiwan,” Coolidge says.
The overall aim of the programme is to expand cooperation between the indigenous tribes of Taiwan and the tribes of the Pacific, given that they are all connected as part of the Austronesian family.
“It is only fitting that our initial exchange program is with the Māori,” says Coolidge.
“They are the most well-known Austronesian tribe in the world. We believe that the Taiwanese hosts will benefit from their experiences with their Māori cousins, expanding their sense of cultural identity and feeling like part of a larger world family.”
The AUT students were a natural fit for Coolidge because of their passion, excitement and their areas of expertise.
“AUT Māori students are ideal for our programme as they are future media producers, and this year's program will focus on developing future cooperation for New Zealand and Taiwanese indigenous film and television projects.”
The students attending are Eru Paranihi, Urshula Ansell, Mahia Ponga-Fou, Reece Howard, Kahurangi Peke-King-Minnear, Michael Wikiriwhi-Heta and Lorraine Fairest.