Arts therapy in Aotearoa New Zealand is a growing and developing profession. The underlying philosophies and concepts of art therapy are aligned with the values and beliefs of the Indigenous Māori people in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This paper will explore the creative opportunities and therapeutic benefits of combining a Māori model of health, Te Whare Tapa Wha, with art therapy. It will examine these approaches through the research projects of three Masters Students at Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design in Auckland, New Zealand.
The first project presented a bicultural arts therapy programme, with a kaupapa Māori design, for Māori women with creative opportunities for self-exploration, development and growth. The second project—for teenage mothers (11–16 years)—presented arts therapy interventions that reinforce and strengthen personal identity, raise self-esteem and harness human potential. The last project explored creative arts therapy as a strategy for the promotion of wellbeing in the field of nursing.
The restoration, reinforcement and strengthening of personal identity, ethnicity and culture is an effective process for increasing self-esteem and building self-confidence. This paper presents three research projects that highlight the ability of arts therapy and Māori models of healing to address the needs of Indigenous and ethnic minorities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
‘Culture can be a protective factor that mitigates the impact of stressful life events and experiences. A correlation between the connection to one’s culture and a positive sense of identity reinforces confidence and personal aspirations for healing.’ Atkinson (2013, p 14).