Author: Caitlin Donnelly


Caitlin Donnelly
26 February 2021

Donnelly, C. (2021). Māmā. (A dissertation in partial fulfilment for the Master of Fine Arts degree at the Dunedin School of Art, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand). 


Māmā is a transliterated te Reo (Māori language) word for mother; this, therefore, reflects my journey to connect with my Māori ancestry, as well as reflecting on my experiences as a mother. Until I discovered my Iwi, I thought I was only Pākehā. I chose this title because mārama means moon and talks of cycles and mātauraka refers to knowledge. These concepts are incorporated and celebrated in the kupu (word) Māmā and, therefore, in the mother's role and in my exploration for this project. Māmā is an identity project where I explore my growing understanding of being Kāi Tahu Māori, a mother, a woman in rural Aotearoa, New Zealand, and an adoptee. To do this, I will follow the whakataukī, Ka mua, ka muri, which means walking backwards into the future - the idea we should look to the past to inform the future.

This dissertation sits alongside the exhibition Māmā. This writing and the artwork and my mahi (work) are interconnected. This body of work expresses my reactions, thoughts, and feelings by not fitting the places I occupy. I am an estranged Māori, as I was raised as Pākehā. I am a non-local in rural Aotearoa, New Zealand; I am a rural woman with no farming background; I am a mother and female artist; I am a woman in Fire Emergency New Zealand; I am an adoptee. In exploring my identity, my work is fuel by my experiences. Sexism and racism are issues that have affected me personally. For this reason, the theoretical framework of Intersectional Feminism will help examine my main three areas of focus in this project which are Māori, Wāhine (Women), and Kowhaea (Mother). Therefore, Māmā is an exhibition of works made in response to these three critical areas experienced through my various roles and mahi. This project aims to voice and give agency to these issues via exploring histories, complexities, and intersections within them.

Key words: feminism, post-colonialism, kaupapa Māori theory, intersectionality, identity.

Caitlin Donnelly's primary supervisor was Jane Venis.


This abstract is available under a Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

The thesis will be available at the Robertson Library, University of Otago.

Creative Commons License