The Others

Bronwen Gray


If health is about adaptation, understanding and acceptance, then the arts may be more potent than anything medicine has to offer (Smith, 2002).


What you are about to read is an autoethnographic study of what it was like to work as an art therapist with urban Maori and Pacific Islanders who live on a housing estate in South Auckland. Given that autoethnography is a postmodern research methodology, you will not find neatly defined sections entitled literature review or hypothesis, or a nice neat answer to a question, because this is not how autoethnography works. Autoethnography blends ethnographic interests with life writing and as such is able to bring together an understanding of personal identity and cultural context (Franzosa, 1992). Rather than relying on more conventional approaches to research, the ultimate story has been deconstructed, the literature is woven through the research, assisting with the triangulation of the picture I paint.

It seeks to expand the gambit of what art therapy can include, and in particular when it is practiced at the margins, acting disruptively, which is the ultimate role of any fringe activity. By starting with my lived experience it reflects on the role that dignity has to play in producing optimum health and wellbeing. With a belief that the personal is always political, it seeks to be what Eyreman & Jamison, (1998 p. 22) refer to as both “truth bearing and knowledge producing.” Located within a human rights framework it recognizes that art therapy is not value free or apolitical, it is in fact the exact opposite, and as such, it should demand that we take action about the injustices we uncover.

Set on a housing estate in South Auckland, with a community that most had forgotten about or were afraid of, it is about the places some of us have to call home.

Would you like to come inside?


Keywords: Autoethnography, human rights, Maori, Pacific Islanders, housing estates, rituals

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