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Online Course Explores Bicultural Treatment Of ‘Primal Resource’

This free, four-week online course continues the New Zealand Landscape as Culture series’ focus on teaching students how landscape is an expression of culture, and how they can transfer this idea to the landscape they live in.

Who owns water? What is its legal status? How do waterways express cultural identities? Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s latest massive open online course (MOOC) explores questions around cultural relationships to wai (water), in the final instalment of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first-ever bicultural MOOC series.

New Zealand Landscape as Culture: Wai (Water) looks at the unique geology that has created our watery nation, and investigates the political, cultural and economic dynamics of its waterways.

Incorporating mātauranga Māori and te reo Māori, and introducing ideas from both Māori and Pākehā cultures, the course will be presented by Associate Professor Maria Bargh (Te Arawa and Ngāti Awa) from the University’s Te Kawa a Māui, School of Māori Studies, and Emeritus Professor Lydia Wevers, a specialist in New Zealand literature and history.

“Water is, and always has been, a political issue and we have two very different cultural traditions and beliefs about water,” says Associate Professor Bargh.

“If you whakapapa to an awa or river, you have responsibilities towards it. Pākehā have had very different ideas about what water is for, and in this course we go out into the landscape to look at some of the consequences of this collision of values.”

This free, four-week online course continues the New Zealand Landscape as Culture series’ focus on teaching students how landscape is an expression of culture, and how they can transfer this idea to the landscape they live in. Previous courses have looked at islands (ngā motu) and maunga (mountains), and how they are perceived through the lenses of both Māori and Pākehā cultures. 

“We want students to learn to think about the long and deep cultural traditions associated with water, and what they mean in our contemporary world,” says Professor Wevers.

“The value of water and questions of ownership have become urgent as the resource is exploited, becomes scarcer and is more polluted. How can we learn from other cultural practices? And what must we change to protect this primal resource?”

Wellington University is the only university in New Zealand to offer courses on the global edX platform, and joins top-ranked United States universities, including MIT and Harvard, in teaching high-quality courses based on world-class research through the platform.

New Zealand Landscape as Culture: Wai (Water) starts on 15 July, 2020, and is now open for enrolment.


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