Stripping feathers and fur : a decolonizing lens on illustration and visual narrative : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Design at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
In this practice-led thesis I explore my own practice as an Aotearoa New Zealand-based illustrator. I explore how visual narrative and drawing can reframe early Māori / Pākehā encounters from a decolonizing perspective. The project focuses on a case study of Māori / Pākehā encounter that occurred in the Foveaux Strait region, in extraordinary circumstances, in 1810. It concerns Tokitoki, a high-born Māori girl, and James Caddell, a sealer and English teen, and led to Caddell's assimilation into Tokitoki's Ngāi Tahu iwi (tribe). Their encounter is a story of identity, belonging and assimilation - themes that continue to be highly relevant today. My project orients audiences, via storytelling and visual narrative, to the perspectives of the two central protagonists, Tokitoki and Caddell, using a practice-led methodology informed by decolonization theory and focalization. It is also informed by archival research relating to this story, which imposes a variety of limitations that the thesis also explores - notably relating to the absence of Māori voice in the records of settlers. My thesis argues that visual narrative is a powerful medium to convey early Māori / Pākehā encounter from a decolonizing perspective. The design output is a visual narrative of Tokitoki and Caddell's story rendered in an achromatic palette. I argue that this medium is free from the constraints of textual language, and so invites the audience to construct their own interpretation of the narrated events. The design output is proposed for the Bluff Maritime Museum. This regionally-significant institution is particularly relevant to Southland settler history: it is a rich repository of records connected to early European trade, industry, settlement, and the resulting mixed-descent families in the area, and is highly valued by the community.
Permission to reproduce the image in Figure 46 (p. 44) has been obtained from Tuhawaiki’s whānau, and endorsed by Te Uare Taoka o Hākena / The Hocken Collections, Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo / University of Otago.