Urban Dreams Wellington Podcast #1: on mana whenua with Liz Mellish

If art has a role to play in creating public space, how might it better acknowledge the ground, the very context in which it takes place? Its environment, its heritage, its politics. How might it more deeply offer alternatives to the treatment of land as an exchangeable commodity? Let’s start in Aotearoa New Zealand with mana whenua.

In this short lunchtime conversation at the Wharewaka on Wellington’s waterfront with Liz Mellish we talk on the meaning of mana whenua, the role of Te Atiawa ki te Whanganui a Tara (the people who lived around the harbour) and ways artists might better work with mana whenua. 

“Sometimes it feels a bridge too far for people,” says Liz, “and in our country it shouldn’t be like that, it should be easy.”

Key to Liz’s korero is Wellington’s Wharewaka, established in 2011, as a lynchpin for a change in view of the Wellington CBD. Liz touches on how it operates as “a whole village in one building” and some powerful stories: the rock that became the Michael Fowler Centre, and Te Atiawa’s relations with the eagle rays, penguins and homeless who visit and reside in Frank Kitts lagoon. We also hear from artist Kedron Parker on her relationship with mana whenua working at the CBD’s Kumutoto stream.

Liz Mellish is a director of the Wharewaka and Mana Whenua o Poneke, chair of Palmerston North Maori Reserves Trust and member of Urban Dream Brokerage’s Wellington advisory panel. She is in conversation with Letting Space’s Mark Amery.

This is the first of a series of planned recorded monthly conversations in Wellington conducted by Letting Space’s Urban Dream Brokerage service, with support from Wellington City Council and Wellington Community Trust. They are recorded over lunches open to all attend which aim to support artists across disciplines playing an active role in the city outside of conventional venues.