What is Māori typography?
Kennedy, N. E. (2020). What is Māori typography? (Thesis, Master of Computer Graphic Design (MCGD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13729
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13729
Te Reo Māori was traditionally an oral language similar to many indigenous cultures. Writing systems were not familiar to Māori until 1769 where Māori were introduced to the written language by Pākehā. Early Māori writing can be found printed, carved and painted in a number of different parts of Māori society. These myriad texts were strongly influenced and inspired by Pākehā biblical texts and newspapers. The influence of Pākehā texts meant that overtime the written language of Te Reo Māori had a Pākehā visual identity. To date, there is minimal research about the history and visual identity of Māori typography. The lack of research and resources about Māori typography confirms how underdeveloped Māori typography is and highlights the potential for research and development in this space. This thesis aims to explore Māori typography. In particular, this thesis will provide an understanding of how Māori typography has evolved, addressing the perceptions of Māori text features and advice on design guidance of Māori typography. Two studies within this thesis involved analysing the text-based features in 21 Māori newspapers dated from 1842-1935. Māori newspapers are a valuable resource that captured moments in history and also early displays of Māori text. The second study involved interviews with 50 participants — Māori and non-Māori, from a range of different backgrounds — who provided their understandings and perceptions surrounding the features of Māori text. The results from these studies have shown that the serif typeface classification was commonly used in early print such as Māori newspapers. Serif lettering also reminded participants in our studies of early Māori texts such as old text books and newspapers. This appears to be the reason as to why, a strong theme of serifs and the style of Didone typefaces have been used throughout Māori typography and by default are recognised features of Māori typefaces today. Having analysed Māori newspapers, an unexpected finding appeared in the 1908 Te Pipiwharauroa newspaper. Two unique letter characters were found that was revolution for Te Reo Māori text of the time. This oddity combined the ‘ng’ letters into one letter character and the ‘wh’ letters into one letter character also. The aim in combining the two letters together was to emphasise the one sound that the ‘ng’ and the ‘wh’ make to avoid confusion in the pronunciation of Māori words. The results showed that these two letter characters appeared from 1908 through to 1912. There is no evidence of these characters appearing after 1912 and also appearing in other newspapers. The two characters were a rare appearance of its time. As a result of this research it is clear that the visual identity of Te Reo Māori remains unclear and was highly influenced by serif lettering. This thesis highlights the need for more research about Māori typography and design guidance for developing appropriate Māori typefaces that are influenced and inspired by Maori culture.
The University of Waikato
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