Maori Personal Adornment – A Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography

Project code:  ART011

Disciplinary Area

Art History



Dr Ngarino Ellis

This project seeks to examine the history and significance of Māori personal adornment to the present. This field is important within Māori art history, as one way in which to chart innovation and change within the body arts, and on a wider sense within Māori culture as a whole. The display of the body reveals much about status and power within the community, both on personal and public level. Personal adornment includes taonga tuku iho (ancestral treasures) which were placed on (eg the neck) and in (eg the ears and spetum and hair) the body, were often named, and their placement directed by specialists. The field also includes moko and mata whakarewa (body painting). These ancestral treasures often had whakapapa/genealogy and are associated with significant figures in history, their names reflecting and embodying both metaphorical concepts and real persons.

Little has been written since the 1940s about this arena, and the project is keen to argue for the art forms to be understood within a continuum of Māori art, from the ancestral realm (through moteatea/chants), and Pacific (through the archaeological record), right up to the present day with contemporary artists creating a wide variety of forms as a way of articulating being Māori today.

This project is in its infancy and I am keen to develop the project further once I have some understanding of the extent of the written and oral literature. I have held provisional discussions with two Māori artists (one a jeweller, both with postgraduate degrees) with a view to co-writing a book on the topic, and co-curating an exhibition within the next three years. We are excited that this will be a Māori-driven project, which will offer artists and communities new insights into our past, and ideas and models for current practice, understanding and celebration of Māori culture.

Scholar’s Work

The Scholar will undertake the following research:

1.     Conduct a comprehensive search for all publically-available oral and written historical and contemporary material on Maori personal adornment. This will include material in books and articles in particular. One particularly rich source of material is expected to be found in pre- and early-contact Maori oral sources in the form of whakatauki, korero purakau (narratives), moteatea and waiata. I have made some provisional research into this source and discovered some wonderful insights into the types and uses of Māori personal adornment (like blue face paint and feathers through the septum!)

2.     Review, analyse and interpret this material to identify:

a.     key themes from the field as a whole, eg materials, biographies (of taonga, of artists), use in politics, impact of religion; and

b.     critical methodologies in relation to studies in this area, particularly from indigenous and Maori perspectives; and

c.     important taonga tuku iho which should be highlighted for their korero (life stories);

d.     gaps in the current state of the literature that my project will attempt to address

3.     Synthesis these up into a cohesive 5,000-word report.

Required Skills/Pre-requisites

·          Online databases

·          Research skills: being able to identify important sources, and synthesis them into a literature review, and annotated bibliography reports

·          Time management skills; self-motivated

·          PDF processing – scanning all relevant documents and saving them into Dropbox (clearly labelled and organised)

·          A knowledge and understanding of Maori art and culture, and tikanga

·          Ideally a good knowledge of Te Reo as some of the sources will be in Te Reo, eg moteatea

·          A willingness to take professional development courses, such as those run through the Library

·          Ideally the student will also have access to a laptop on which to work for the project


Displaying the Emotional Life of Early Modern Queens

Project code:  ART018

Disciplinary Area

Art History



Erin Griffey

Early modern queens were always on display, their actions and appearance the subject of endless reporting and speculation by courtiers and ambassadors, confessors and critics, and of course the public at large. Decorum was central to behaviour in court life, insisting that emotions were appropriate to the situation at hand. In general this seems to have necessitated the restraint of emotions in many public contexts, such as coronations and ambassadorial visits. Certain contexts leant themselves to the display of happiness: betrothal, marriage and the birth of a healthy child, while the death of a husband or child saw the display of grief.

Scholars have traditionally taken accounts of queens’ emotions at face-value, accepting that their emotional display was genuine and natural. While it is unsurprising that these situatons generated such emotions, this study asks how the emotional life of queens was conceptualised in word and image, if there are patterns of terminology and circumstance. In addition, it asks if there was a political and/or confessional purpose to displays of emotion in certain contexts.

Scholar’s Work

The scholar will undertake research on three early modern queens and an archduchess, looking at contemporary accounts of their lives (ambassadorial accounts, letters, biographies, poems, memoirs) and painted, sculpted and engraved portraits:

Archduchess Isabella (Sourthern Netherlands)

Marie de Medici (France)

Anne of Austria (France)

Catherine of Braganza (England)

The scholar will create an annotated bibliography for each woman, organised chronologically, alongside contemporaneous visual depictions, with notes considering the portrayal (or lack thereof) of emotions. Printed primary sources will be the focus, but the scholar will also consult secondary sources. The scholar will consider the terminology used by early modern writers to describe emotions, the situations and locations in which they occur, the people who witness it, the reliabiity or agenda of the author, and the potential political and/or religious benefit of the display of the emotion. For images, the iconography of emotional display will be examined, for example, the wearing of widow’s dress or other symbolism.

If the scholar does not have French and/or Spanish, then other English queens will be examined.

If there are time constraints, the study will be limited to two or three women.

Required Skills/Pre-requisites

BA major in History, English, Art History, French and/or Spanish

French and/or Spanish would be an advantage given that there is quite a lot of primary literature on Isabella in Spanish and Marie and Anne in French.

Strong research and writing skills