, Volume 77, Issue 6, pp 741–751 | Cite as

Mind maps of the Maori

  • Mere RobertsEmail author


In common with other oral societies, New Zealand Maori constructed mental maps by means of which they made sense of their phenomenological world. Their cognitive template, called whakapapa, consists of a genealogical framework upon which spiritual, spatial, temporal and biophysical information about a particular place is located. These many-layered cosmoscapes performed various roles in traditional society. Analysis of several whakapapa of plants and of lizards suggest that these include a folk taxonomy of the culturally important biota in a particular place; spatial delineation of environmental realms or territories that describe key ecosystems or habitats and their functional inter-relationships; the cosmogonical origins and history of the phenomena in that whakapapa; moral instruction; and provision of a useful mnemonic facilitating retention and recall. In common with other indigenous cultures, whakapapa can also be described as performance cartography in that they are dependent on oral transmission involving narrative, song, and other physical activities whereby the knowledge specific to a place comes to be known.


Whakapapa Cognitive cartography Performance cartography Folk taxonomy Cosmoscapes 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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