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Talofa. Talofa lava. Taloha ni. Ni sa bula vinaka.
Fakaalofa lahi atu. Mālō e lelei. Kia orana. Namaste.
Kia ora.

Welcome to Pacific at Te Papa
Issue 18, October 2012

In this issue:

• Working with the Pacific Cultures Collection  
• Papua New Guinea shields 
Malaga: visiting artists from Sāmoa
Sāmoa Treaty of Friendship events 
• Visitors  
Staff profile – Melania Siaosi
Home AKL exhibition opening
• Pacific History Association Conference 2012 

Working with the Pacific Cultures Collection  

Volunteers Therese Fatu and Jane Miller share their story about their time in the Pacific Cultures Collection:

Te Papa volunteers Therese Fatu (left) and Jane Miller (right) at work in the Pacific Cultures Collection, June 2012. Te Papa

About a year and a half ago, an opportunity came up for Jane and me to gain experience working with collections in Te Papa alongside Grace Hutton, Collection Manager Pacific.

Jane had just completed an undergraduate degree in history and Classics, and I was immersed in my final year of an honours degree in Classics. Working with collections was an exciting opportunity for both of us.

To begin with, we were not picky about the type of work given to us, and would have taken anything Grace or her work colleagues had to give us. This led to our involvement in the Māori and Pacific Textile Symposium last year. Our tasks for the symposium included organising registrations, invoicing attending participants, packaging goodie bags, and every now and then making the odd coffee run. Every pair of hands helped! It was a great experience and allowed us to meet the amazing people that organised it all.

We carried out a number of tasks within the Pacific Cultures Collection – under the supervision of Grace and her colleagues – including updating Te Papa’s object database by registering, cataloguing or editing existing records. We learned about general object handling and minor object conservation. We made moulds, tyvec covers, boxes, and arranged plastic packaging for a range of objects. Some were as small as a pair of shell earrings, some as large as a vaka (canoe). We dealt with a range of objects – paddles, bows and arrows, dolphin-toothed necklaces, ceremonial garments, Pacific armour and weaponry … to name a few.

Before this experience, we both had very little knowledge of Pacific objects or the protocol behind taking care of a museum collection. By the end of our time, I had discovered a love for object conservation and Jane most enjoyed learning about the history behind each object. This project was unlike anything we had ever experienced and we found it so fulfilling. We got on great with the team and they were all so helpful, not only in assisting us but also in helping us learn more about the treatment of the collection.

|| Read more about the Pacific Cultures Collection

Papua New Guinea shields

Grace Hutton, Collection Manager Pacific, tells of her recent find relating to Papua New Guinea shields: 

During a visit to the Pacific Cultures Collection, Fuli Pereira, Pacific Curator from the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, mentioned that she had heard of old shields that still had spear points embedded in them. Intrigued, I decided to try to find out if we had any such shields in the Pacific Cultures Collection at Te Papa.

Several days later, I was searching through one of the museum registers and noticed one which mentioned that a particular shield had ‘spear points embedded’. With this fact in mind, I was determined to find the shield, and so I started searching the Papua New Guinea shelves. Most times it is easy to find an object in the many boxes, but sometimes it can be difficult. On this day, I discovered two shields with spear points embedded in them!

Shields were used widely in Papua New Guinea and in parts of the Solomon Islands in warfare and intergroup fighting. They are commonly made from wood and generally rectangular in shape, but other forms and different materials were also used. Below are some battle shields from the Pacific Cultures Collection, that we have had a closer look at in the last few weeks.  

Shield, date unknown, Papua New Guinea. Maker unknown. Purchased 1911. Te Papa

This early twentieth century battle shield from New Britain, Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea has three spear points embedded in its top half. Considering its size, it is amazingly light.  

This battle shield from Kiriwina (Trobriand Islands), Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea has five spear points embedded in it. Most are in the bottom half of the shield, and one has pierced all the way through. The shield is painted with a red and black pigments on a white background, and is very faded. The patterns are highly anthropomorphic in style. 


Detail of shield and spear point indentations, Papua New Guinea. Oldman Collection. Gift of the New Zealand Government, 1992. Te Papa

Malaga: Visiting artists from Sāmoa 

Malaga is Samoan for ‘a journey’. It also translates as the group who are on the journey. Pacific peoples have always travelled throughout the region for various reasons. This malaga was no different.  

Creative New Zealand staff and the delegation of artists from Samoa, 2012, Te Papa

June 2012 saw the celebration of 50 years of Samoan independence. As part of the celebrations, Creative New Zealand gathered a group of heritage artists from Samoa to tour Aotearoa. The tour took in Auckland Museum, Mangere Arts Centre, and Te Papa.

Here at Te Papa, the tour was timely as it was included in the Matariki 2012 programme, the Kahu Ora exhibition’s Weavers’ Studio, and the ongoing Tangata o le Moana exhibition.

The malaga (touring party) was led by documentary maker Galumalemana Steven Percival. It included a tufuga tatau (tattoo artist), his assistant, a tanoa (kava bowl) carver, an ‘afa (sennit) maker, and two ‘ie toga (fine mat) weavers.

The events programme ran over two days, and drew interest from a diverse group of visitors, as well as the local Samoan community. The demonstration of the heritage arts followed traditional protocol, which allowed audiences a deeper understanding of the practices.  

Samoan carvers with Tainui kaumatua Take Turner, 2012.
Te Papa

Running alongside the live demonstrations were documentaries following the artists in Sāmoa. One documentary showed the choosing of a tree that would eventually be carved into a tanoa (kava bowl) and gifted to King Tuheitia Paki, via Tainui kaumatua Taki and Ratau Turner.  

Samoan Tatatau Paul Sulu'ape (left) from Samoa, 2012.
Te Papa

A highlight of the malaga was the chance to witness the art of Samoan tatau (tattoo). Many visitors marvelled at this age-old practice, and left in awe. An invitation was sent out to Te Papa staff, for those wanting a tatau, and spaces were quickly snapped up.

This event was also hugely successful because of the support of Te Papa staff, who provided food, time, and spirit.

Sāmoa Treaty of Friendship events - from a loans perspective

Te Papa Loans Officer Catherine Halbleib tells of her involvement in helping to process loan objects for the August celebration of 50 years of Samoan independence and the Treaty of Friendship between New Zealand and Samoa. Victoria University of Wellington hosted the events.

A few weeks ago we received a loan request that looked quite straightforward, however, on closer inspection we realised it was going to be a challenging request because of the tight timeframe. Victoria University had requested to borrow some of the Samoan objects in the Te Papa Pacific Cultures Collection. 

Part of the selected objects for the loan was this To’i ma’a (hafted adze), Samoa. Gift of James Fleck, Te Papa

These objects were selected for display during the Sāmoa Treaty of Friendship events held on Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 August 2012. Samoan Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi, Samoan government ministers, and academic staff from the National University of Samoa were among those in attendance. 

Te Papa staff, including Pacific Cultures curators, a collection manager Pacific, a conservation technician, and a loans officer, discussed the request to see how it could best be accommodated. Further discussions followed concerning the selection of the items, and organising staff to be available to assist and deliver them in a safe and timely manner.

After a few meetings, it was agreed that Te Papa would provide 13 Samoan objects and a secure display case. This way we could guarantee a safe environment for the objects as well as allowing the community to reconnect with their treasures on such a special occasion.

A lot of planning, organising, and hands-on work were needed to process the loan, but it was definitely worth it and a great way to support the community.

Visitors to the Pacific Cultures Collection

Since the last Pacific newsletter in May, we have had 129 visitors to the Pacific Cultures Collection store. Many came from outside Wellington, including nine music students from Mangere College in Auckland, and members of the Tranzit Travel Club from Masterton and Palmerston North. A delegation of Samoan parliamentarians visited in April. 


Visiting Samoa Parliamentarians with Te Papa host Roger Rasmussen, 2012, Te Papa

Local visitors included colleagues from the museum sector in Wellington, whose visit was organised by Te Papa’s National Services Te Paerangi. Students from the Landscape Architecture programme at Victoria University Wellington, and members of the Whitby Probus group. A small team from New Zealand Post viewed Samoan combs. A group of social workers visited Te Papa and the Pacific store.

Visiting group of Social Welfare workers with Te Papa Conservation Technician Shane Pasene, 2012,
Te Papa

During the celebration of Cook Islands Language Week (6–10 August), four people toured the collection. This month, two researchers from Cambridge University, England, visited to view objects collected during Captain James Cook’s voyages to the Pacific in the late 1700s.

Visiting researchers

In June, Rod and Bev Ewins visited the Pacific Cultures Collection as part of their research for a new book on the material culture of Fiji.   

Visiting researcher Rod Ewins, 2012, Te Papa

Rod is a scholar and artist who has spent most of his life studying the arts and material culture of the Pacific. Rod was born in Fiji into the fourth generation of a family of settlers who arrived in 1875. His book Fijian Artefacts (1982) has for 30 years been one of two go-to books for curators and collectors of Fiji material culture. 

Over three half-day sessions with Rod and Bev, the Pacific Cultures team viewed all the items in the Fiji collection. We were able to update catalogue descriptions, and in some cases identify objects. In this way, researchers help us build knowledge around the collections and allow us to contribute in a small way to research projects outside Te Papa. Rod and Bev’s research adds to the efforts of others who have worked on Te Papa’s Fiji collection in recent years. To read more about their visit please visit the Te Papa blog:

|| Read more about Rod and Bev's visit

Staff profile

Melania Siaosi
PlaNet Pasifika Host 

Talofa lava

I am 23 years old and Samoan-born. My parents decided to make the big move to New Zealand in 1995 when I was seven. After finishing college in 2006, I completed a carpentry certificate, before finally realising it was not my passion.

In my last job, I was a teacher aide, where I learnt about the lives of young disabled children. A passion of mine is to work with children who have disabilities and to help create art for the world to see.

I have recently moved back to Wellington after living for two years in Auckland. It has been 11 months since taking on the role as PlaNet Pasifika Host at Te Papa Tongarewa. This is a museum with opportunities that challenge you to gain more, learn more, and do more. The highlight of my role is that I get to create art, and be part of education programmes that offer disabled children the same opportunities enjoyed by other children.

My job as a Te Papa Host is to interact with and provide customer service to visitors who come to the Discovery Centres to learn, browse, or who are interested in some way. Te Papa has the best Discovery Centre team you could ask for. I am very happy to work with a group of talented people who help you rise to the top.

Home AKL - Te Papa staff attend opening

7 July – 22 October
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Auckland Art Gallery is worthy of a visit whenever you find yourself in downtown Auckland. Lying out the front of the gallery on a bed of water, Aotea (Long White Cloud) by Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi suggests the beginning of a new journey. From the moment you set eyes on the open facade, your senses awake and there is no looking back.

Launched with the truth, passion, and respect it deserves by Pacific statesman Maualaivao Albert Wendt, Home AKL flourished in the opening night stir. To the sound of a Tongan string band (ukulele, guitar, and violin), food was shared, reunions triggered, new dynamics forged, and the laughter … it was well represented.

Home AKL features a range of media, including photography, sculpture, painting, and adornment. The opening offered free entry for the day, which saw hundreds pass through the gallery. There were two workshops and two performances, as well as two floortalks from Home AKL artists Leilani Kake and Angela Tiatia. 

In one of the workshops, Home AKL artist Janet Lilo had everyone building their home out of cardboard. At the end of the day, there was a cardboard city covering the mezzanine floor. Someone had even made a Sky Tower.

Hip-hop crew Prestige performing at the Home AKL events, 2012, Te Papa

The performances were hugely popular. There was hip-hop from local group Prestige, and high-energy dance from Tatau Dance Group – a group of Samoan male dancers who each bear the Samoan pe’a.

|| Check out the facebook page for Home AKL, and make the journey.


Over the last few months the Pacific Cultures team have been blogging about various collection items and acquisitions. Some of the most recent blogs were linked to Cook Islands Language Week, 6–8 August 2012 – a celebration of the Cook Islands language and Tongan Language Week, 1-8 September 2012.

Click on the links below to read the blogs:

 Generations: Histories with a future

Te Papa staff are on the organising committee for the  20th Pacific History Association (PHA) conference which is being held at Victoria University of Wellington from 6 to 8 December 2012. The PHA serves the interests of specialists in Pacific history, Pacific studies, political studies, anthropology, and archaeology. The biennial conference is an international event drawing together researchers from the Pacific islands, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.  


Convened by Dr Adrian Muckle and Dr Teresia Teaiwa, the 2012 conference will include presentations by more than 150 speakers across 54 sessions. Keynote addresses will be provided by Aroha Harris, University of Auckland; Chris Ballard, Australian National University; and Vince Diaz, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Full details of the provisional programme will be available by mid-September on the PHA’s website at http://pacifichistoryassociation.org/. Early-bird registration is now open on the website, with late fees applying from 16 October. There is no late fee for single-day registrations.


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Phone: (04) 381 7000
Email: mail@tepapa.govt.nz