Sandy Wakefield

Sandy Wakefield

Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Tahu

Studying at the University of Waikato was a turning point for emerging writer, artist and researcher Sandy Wakefield (Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Tahu).

Sandy Wakefield

With 18 years in the film industry, including work on the award-winning movie, The Power of the Dog, Sandy says her studies at Waikato helped focus on the importance of kaupapa Māori values as a storyteller.

This week she graduates from Te Kohinga Mārama Marae with her Master of Arts in Māori Cultural Studies/Tikanga Māori and a Diploma in Te Tohu Paetahi, Waikato University’s intensive, one-year total immersion Māori language programme.

“My diploma opened the door to mātauranga Māori and confirmed my thirst and quest to seek more knowledge. It’s why I started my master’s at Waikato,” Sandy, 40, says.

“I was looking for the next step in my career, I wanted to know how to do kaupapa Māori research and use our cultural stories and blend these two pieces of knowledge together.”

Sandy’s master’s thesis, ‘Have you heard of Hinehau? A research journey of reclamation’ explored Sandy’s personal journey into her own iwi history. Her research, which was supervised by Dr Donna Campbell, included the reworking of Hinehau’s mythical story and the development of an audio play in te reo Māori, Te Mana o Hinehau.

Sandy, who graduates with First-Class Honours, says it felt incredibly special to be part of an indigenous family, within the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies.

“There was a friendly atmosphere at Waikato that I really appreciated. The academics were incredibly approachable and accessible, they were there for the students and I found that really exciting - rubbing shoulders with knowledgeable people.”

She had the opportunity to go on a writing retreat as part of Te Toi o Matariki - Māori Graduate Excellence Programme - a programme designed to support and encourage Māori excellence at the graduate and postgraduate levels of studies.

She also enjoyed the Decolonising Methodologies paper. 

"Since then, working collaboratively for and within diverse communities is central to any project I have participated in.”

Recently Sandy was awarded funding for a Digital Fellowship Programme from the Australia Council for the Arts in partnership with Creative New Zealand.

Much of her work today involves engaging with Māori-led conservation project teams around the country to create a repository map and data project run through the Biological Science Challenge.

“Having the whanau from all over the country travel to tautoko this graduation is symbolic to me,” Sandy says, “there has been a focus on education that feels like a generational thing.

“The ripple effect of educating ourselves, especially in our own matauranga sends a message of triumph. If I can do it, then they can too.”

Sandy Wakefield