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Author: Dr. Sakul Kundra

My article titled "Talanoa, a way of life" published in The Fiji Times last month urged me to explore other varied Pacific research frameworks. So, this article provides an insight into these indigenous frameworks and especially concentrates on the Kakala research framework and purports to scrutinise the challenges to Pacific research.

Pacific research historiography and frameworks

Pacific indigenous education has been kept on the margin for ages. So many educational researches do not acknowledge or give value to Pacific indigenous knowledge systems, learning theories and pedagogies. After World War II, the dominance of Europe in historiography disintegrated to new centres of gravity in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

This transition was seen from the works of WP Morell's Britain in the Pacific Islands and Deryck Scarr's Fragments of Empire although seeing the Pacific from European eyes. But the foundation stone was laid down in the researches of J.W Davidson, HE Maude, KR Howe, David Routledge, Doug Munro and Brij V Lal etc, the discourse of Pacific history writing has shown a huge transition.

Pacific indigenous research methodologies, protocols and practices have been decolonised and explained in Linda Smith's book Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and indigenous Peoples.

Konai Helu Thaman's article Towards Cultural Democracy in Teaching and Learning with Specific References to Pacific Islands and her keynote presentation Reclaiming a place: Teachers and the education of indigenous peoples in Oceania have highlighted some of pioneering Pacific research frameworks that emerged in past two decades — 1992 — Kakala (Thaman); 1998 — Fa'afaletui (Tamasese, Peteru and Waldegrave); 1998 — Naauao (Meyers); 1999 — Kurakaupapa Maori (Smith); 2000 — Tivaevae (Maua-Hodges); 2001 — Fonofale (Sauni); 2001 — Malie and Mafana (Manu'atu) 2006 — Vanua (Nabobo-Baba); 2008 - Te Kora (Bauro); 2010 ­— Manulua (Vaioleti); 2011 — Iluvatu (Naisilisili).

Thaman, in her two earlier articles titled Towards a culture-sensitive model of curriculum development for Pacific Island Countries and Culture and the Curriculum, showed the difference of teaching and school learning curriculum of the Pacific with Western teaching pedagogies and learning methodologies.

Thus, indigenous research practices allow indigenous people to re-establish engagement with scholarly authority over their own knowledge systems, experiences, representations, imaginations and identities. These are used as guidelines for indigenous and non-indigenous scholars to carry out appropriate, respectful and culturally safe research practices.

Many research frameworks allowed the researchers to access traditional knowledge rarely shared in research. Many have a holistic approach to life which comprises physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing used in various Pacific Islands. These culturally sensitive methodologies have alternative designs than Western methodologies.

Kakala: Pacific research framework

Thaman wrote Kakala: A Pacific concept of teaching and learning and developed the Kakala framework. Kakala is sourced from the Tongan metaphor used for fragrant flowers and leaves woven together in special ways according to the need of the occasion they are woven for, which is worn either around the waist or neck.

Each kakala is ranked as each flower and design used in kakala is ranked, as in a communal process it shows collaboration, sharing of resources and the passing of skills to the coming generation.

In this process, it also focuses of preparing a designed garland for a particular occasion and with a definite person in mind.

The processes involved in kakala-making are similar to those used in research processes and comprises toli (material selection/gathering (gathering of kakala), which involve the researcher to gather and select the data, review the interview data and make preparation for analysis.

It's similar to searching for, selecting and picking the most appropriate flower and fauna. Ethics used to access the knowledge are critical to obtaining authentic and accurate data; using tools like talanoa and nofo).

It follows with tui (weaving/making of kakala, this is the actual process of putting together the data collected/integration, analysis/synthesis, discussion of the results and presenting them in the form of final report; or meaning collected flowers and fauna is gathered and given to the people who weave and put the garland together.

These selected people collect the appropriate flowers and fauna for the garland design. They hold knowledge of traditional methods, design and comment on correctness, presentation and symbolic meanings; cultural and technical skills are important at this stage).

Next is luva (presentation of the kakala as a sign of respect and love/giving away, which is the final process and involves the presentation to the participants, community, scholars, people and stakeholders in the research, which is launching and distributing information and, finally, the completion of the garland which is given away as gift or presented to someone for a special occasion i.e. festival, dance, birthdays, wedding etc.).

The Kakala research framework was criticised and revised in 2005/06. As per Seu'ula Johansson Fua's article Kakala Research Framework: A Garland in Celebration of a Decade of Rethinking Education, the original kakala frame was put together by Konai Helu Thaman as an articulation for her conceptualisation of teaching and learning.

Ana Taufe'ulungaki and Seu'ula Johansson Fua have added two additional steps teu (preparation) and mafana/malie (evaluation of results and outcomes) and additional ideas from Linita Manu'atu.

Teu means what kind of research is needed, who is doing it and why, what is the source of conceptualisation and what is going to happen to the results whereas malie defines whether the research was useful, its worthiness and who benefits from it. Mafana refers to warmth, to mean the final evaluation of the research in relation to three criteria of transformation, application and sustainability.

Major challenges to Pacific research

After decolonisation of Pacific research methodology, transition took place from "island-oriented" to "island centric research" then the debate on "insider/outsider dichotomy" to "Pacific historiography" sub-discipline becoming fragmented, diversified and its literature growing to unmanageable proportion".

Brij V Lal and Doug Munro's Texts and Contents mentions the "fractured academy of Pacific historiography simply reflects that the worldwide phenomena of growth leads to specialisation, specialisation to fragmentation and fragmentation to the clannishness, separation and autarky".

In regard to challenges of Pacific research frameworks, Thaman highlighted that Pacific research had a "lack of overt institutional support and dearth of Pacific research activities to utilise Pacific knowledge, frameworks and methodologies; continuous dependence on foreign aid for research makes it difficult for Pacific researchers to openly critique; objections by few academics who see Pacific research themes as culturalist and not scientific; marginalisation of indigenous and local innovations; need to justify and adapt; and shortage of skilled mentors, teachers and risk takers; strong force of globalisation that discourages Pacific teachers and students from recognising, valuing and studying their own studies".

Thus, an equilibrium needs to be established by using Pacific research frameworks with combinations of others wherever required and implied wherever possible for the growth of not just the Pacific, but the entire academia.

*  is an assistant professor in history at FNU. He is the author of a forthcoming book titled Insights of Mughal India: Exploring Vision of French Travelers and Adventurers (2017). Views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.

Source: The Fiji Times Online

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