This paper uses an arts-based learning encounter at a marae-based wānanga as a starting point for exploring the potential of aesthetic inquiry to support dynamic and always evolving relationality between people and place. The work of two researchers, Māori writer and scholar Cassandra Barnett and Irish inter-cultural researcher Sharon Todd, is discussed as examples of critical aesthetic inquiries that open new possibilities for relationality between people and place through encounters with artworks. Maxine Greene’s definition of aesthetic inquiry, as distinct from an “arts as connoisseurship” approach, is utilised to encourage a greater awareness among arts educators of the limitations and potential risks of liberal multicultural approaches in arts education. With increasing pressures to fast track the decolonising and indigenising of curriculum in New Zealand education, I discuss the importance of mitigating the risks of uncritically transferring indigenous Māori concepts and material into mainstream classrooms. New insights are offered into how aesthetic inquiry in arts based pedagogy and curriculum can support learners to sit with the complexities that come with a settler-indigenous history.
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