Diary of a summer scholar: Amber Rhodes
18 July 2019
Last summer Amber worked with Dr Ngarino Ellis (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou) to find and record items of Māori body adornment that are held in museum collections or have come up for auction.
"The aim of my Summer Research Scholarship project was to create a database to record where items of Māori body adornment are held in collections around the world.
"I have loved this project. The crossover of Te Ao Māori with the period of contact and colonisation and how those relationships unfolded has always been something that has intrigued me.
"I found that there are innumerable taonga that are residing overseas who have lost their names and their links to their source communities, guardians and makers. This occurred through theft and 'fossicking', but also through gifting and trade where the whakapapa of the taonga was not retained.
"This project was a chance to delve further into our pre-colonial and colonial past, to further understand the things which happened on this land, the strange world of ethnographic collecting, and to really be engaged in the time before and understand its link to where we are now."
I found that there are innumerable taonga that are residing overseas who have lost their names and their links to their source communities, guardians and makers.
"I have loved engaging with the hundreds of taonga I encountered. I have enjoyed reading and thinking critically about the way collectors and museums have engaged with Indigenous treasures and how that might be changing. And I have loved reading the articles and theses that helped to inform my findings.
"Reading first-hand accounts of engagement between Māori and Europeans in the late 1800s was intriguing and gave a very palpable sense of the land in a time before it was stolen and turned into pasture.
"This project could not have been a more perfect flashpoint for cementing my future endeavours. Since I was a little girl I have been intrigued by museums and the treasures they hold, and — despite veering off to make movies for twenty years — I have come full circle and hope to work in the GLAM industry in the near future.
"This Summer Research Scholarship could have been tailor-made for me. I am now considering postgraduate study and potentially a thesis on the subject I have been researching.
"Our past informs out future. Ka mura, ka muri — we must look to the past in order to move forward. There is much work to do to decolonise Aotearoa New Zealand, and there are many ways to do this. One of them is listening to the stories our taonga can tell."
Julianne Evans | Media adviser
Mob: 027 562 5868