‘Vā Moana: space and relationality in Pacific thought and identity’ conference

Image: Drawing by Albert Refiti, Artwork by Emily Parr

On the 24th and 25th of November, around 280 people gathered online for the ‘Vā Moana: space and relationality in Pacific thought and identity’ conference.


The conference was part of a 2019-2023 Marsden project, which documents and conceptually investigates current conditions of vā and related notions that are relevant to local, regional and global constellations. Academic researchers, cultural historians, artists, students and others assembled to explore histories and current practices of vā and their relevance for Moana Futures. The conference began with a whakatau, and was hosted by the University of Hawai‘i on the first day and by the Auckland University of Technology on the second.


Keynote speakers, Maia Nuku and Kalei Nu’uhiwa with Ty P. Kāwika Tengan, joined us from New York and Honolulu respectively. There were two Kaumātua Panels / Talanoa, one based in Hawaiʻi and the other in Aotearoa. More than forty researchers presented papers across twelve sessions, which combined pre-recorded presentations with live Q&A. Five ‘actiVĀtors’ and audiovisual ‘Moana Cosmograms’ guided us through the sessions, creating multi-sensory transitions as we traversed the digital realm.


The conference lives on through its online platform, which holds session recordings, a presentation library, and forum-based talanoa, until Day 3, which is planned for March 2022. Tausiga ‘o Vā: knowledge sharing panel discussions day with Māori, Tongan and Samoan experts will be hosted at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum.


The conference has so far been described as a supportive environment in which to share research, emotionally connected, nourishing of spirit and mind and a powerful convergence. We eagerly look forward to seeing how the relationships formed or reignited during the conference continue to unfold. Our greatest thanks go to everyone who contributed to the conference in a myriad of ways – it is a collective success to be collectively celebrated!


We especially acknowledge the Marsden Fund (Royal Society Te Apārangi) which enabled us to host this gathering for free.

Centre for Design Research
Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa
School of Art and Design

Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau,
Auckland University of Technology


Susan Hedges susan.hedges@aut.ac.nz
Mandy Smith mandy.smith@aut.ac.nz

Authors are responsible for obtaining permission to publish images or illustrations with their papers in CDR; neither editors nor publishers of CDR accept responsibility for any author’s/authors’ failure to do so.

© Centre for Design Research, AUT University 2021