Te Hei Tiki: An Enduring Treasure in a Cultural Continuum

An enduring treasure in a cultural continuum.

By Dougal Austin

Publication date: September 2019
NZ RRP (incl. GST): $65.00
Extent: 288 pages
Format: Hardback
ISBN:  978-0-9951031-4-6

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Of all Māori personal adornments, the human figure pendants known as hei tiki are the most famous, highly prized and culturally iconic. This book celebrates the long history of hei tiki and the enduring cultural potency of these taonga. Te Hei Tiki showcases stunning photographs of a large selection of hei tiki, most from the taonga Māori collections of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and provides fascinating details of the history and culture behind them.

Look inside Te Hei Tiki: An Enduring Treasure in a Cultural Continuum


Te Hei Tiki was highly commened in the 2019 AAANZ Book Awards for the Best Art Writing by a NZ Māori or Pasifika. 


Te Hei Tiki was reviewed in the 2019 October issue of North & South; “lavishly illustrated, with many of the hei tiki pictured in larger-than-life-size, full-page glory, the book has some claim to being described as a taonga in its own right.” 

Selected as one of the 2019 Best Books of the Year by a panel of NZ Listener reviewers: "A welcome, some would say long-overdue, insight into the history, mystery, meaning and manufacture of the varied forms and features of our most ubiquitous Maori motif by Te Papa curator Dougal Austin, supported by a stunning gallery of photographed hei tiki."

Te Hei Tiki in the 2019 Summer issue of Art News, “this well-researched and well-written book discussed their value and status as taonga; their use and meaning; their various types and shapes; and their rich history … adds a brilliant series of photographs showing the making of a hei tiki by hand …”

About the author

Dougal Austin (Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu, Waitaha) is Senior Curator Matauranga Maori at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. He has a particular research interest in the origins, development, cultural use and significance of hei tiki. His work has included a tour of the Kura Pounamu exhibition throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and China.