8 Apr 2024

How colour was understood in pre-colonial New Zealand

From Nights, 9:30 pm on 8 April 2024

New Zealand children grow up learning the colours of the rainbow.

As well as black and white, grey and brown, everything around them can be easily categorised by those rainbow colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink.

But prior to the arrival of European settlers, te reo Māori described the world using five categories of colour: black, white, red, yellow, and green.

Professor Neil Dodgson, the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Research at Victoria University of Wellington, says as the land was colonised, traditional ideas around colour were pushed aside, meaning how colour is perceived today may be very different to how it was perceived 500 years ago or longer.

He joins Emile Donovan.