Indigenous Knowledge and Design: interview to Dr. H. Pi’Ikea Clark, a Hawaiian talks about designing from the roots

April 14, 2011 at 2:03 pm Leave a comment

In the frame of the summit on Design-anthropology and culture-centered innovation held in March in Italy [where Design for Social Innovation and other 18 around the World individuals and initiatives where invited]. I was lucky to meet Dr. Herman Pi’Ikea Clark. I asked him about which is the advice he would give young designers and researchers looking at indigenous knowledge as a source for innovation. He is an associate professor of the Indigenous University: Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi in New Zealand. He works at the school of Education and undergraduate studies. Pi’Ikea, how he likes to be called, is original from Hawaii [cousin culture to the Maori].This is what he answered:Pic: Hicker

“It is important that you know whom do you want to design for. What do you want to really affect. Which is the community you want to affect, advance, enhance… There are so many people that are talented and skilled but people can just become too much oriented to what their tools allow them. It is really important to know WHO YOU ARE in this”.Pic: Pi’Ikea playing ukulele [CM]

Building a Design Curriculum is not something easy, and it is less easy when there are so many expectations hooked with the idea of indigenous learning.  “Basically, every student I have is Maori. They are often separated from their cultural base, just because they are Maori, doesn’t mean that they are connected totally with their indigenous heritage.  I still believe that their experience is a Maori experience, yet is my belief, that everyone has a role to communicate what is being Maori. They have a contribution to make”. This words suit what I know about Pi’Ikea. He is inherently an ambassador of his Hawaiian culture, through his graphic work, design research or his ukulele songs. 

“I don’t really teach, I try to be a facilitator. I want the students to design grounded in things like heritage, family or other experiences they get from the land.  In the new program, I want the students to meet me in the morning to go surf.  For us, surfing is part of the environment.  The ocean shapes our culture. It is important that the students understand that you have to give yourself to the ocean. It is a humbling process. They learn then how to understand the context. It is important for the students to find particular reference points. That they connect with family, history or something else that is deep enough in them. If not, they tend to replicate stuff. I am not Maori, so it is a great honor for me to be in this university. I’ve been invited as a Pacific Indigenous Cousin. Though the university is open to any student, we are approaching learning from an indigenous standpoint”.

Entry filed under: Design Anthropology, Ethics, Social Design.

Know your onions, why the digital humanities should give more relevance to the end-user A Framework for Design Education: Download past key papers

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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
Creative Commons License
Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at