Professor and expert in Māori architecture elected to Royal Society
15 March 2021
Professor Deidre Brown (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu), head of the School of Architecture and Planning, is one of 27 new Ngā Ahurei a Te Apārangi Fellows and Ngā Ahurei Honore a Te Apārangi Honorary Fellows to be elected to the Academy of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.
Of the current 455 Royal Society Te Apārangi Fellows, Professor Deidre Brown is the only one with an architecture and art history background and is one of a growing group of distinguished Māori Fellows.
“My whānau and I are honoured and humbled by my election to the fellowship,” says Dr Brown. “It is recognition of the importance of Māori architectural research in our knowledge of the settlement and development of Aotearoa New Zealand through building and making.”
Dr Brown is a founding researcher of Māori architectural history and design, whose research has been used as a framework in the field of Māori architecture within Aotearoa and internationally.
While working to recover histories and taonga in her own Taitokerau (Northland) region, she challenged earlier scholars who argued that the region’s woodcarving traditions died out with Pākehā arrival.
She discovered what were previously deemed as “lost” collections of Māori art, leading to the repatriation of a significant taonga (Te Pahi medal), which enabled her hapū to return to their tūrangawaewae tribal lands.
Dr Brown is an internationally-renowned and recognised scholar of Māori and Pacific art history, cultural property rights and Indigenous digital humanities, and one of the first researchers to develop scholarship and Kaupapa Māori methodology for investigating Indigenous digital culture.
Throughout her research career, she has been committed to protecting Māori intellectual and cultural property rights in artistic and commercial sectors.
It is recognition of the importance of Māori architectural research in our knowledge of the settlement and development of Aotearoa New Zealand through building and making.
Her book Māori Architecture: from fale to wharenui, was the first book to chart the genesis and form of Indigenous buildings in Aotearoa New Zealand. It explores the vast array of Māori-designed structures and spaces - how Māori architecture has evolved over time, and how they tell the story of an ever-changing people.
She also co-authored Art in Oceania: a new history – a major comprehensive survey of cultural production for the region, supported by the Marsden Fund, which won the 2014 Art Book Prize for the best English language art or architecture book in the world.
Other Marsden-funded book projects include A New Zealand Book of Beasts: animals in our culture, history and everyday life with Professors Annie Potts and Philip Armstrong and the soon to published Toi Te Mana: a history of Indigenous art from Aotearoa New Zealand with Associate Professor Ngarino Ellis and the late Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki. The latter is a comprehensive account of the history of Māori art and architecture and draws together many of her career’s research interests.
“One of the founders and a later president of the first Royal Society [est. 1660 in London] was the renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren," notes Dr Brown. "The purpose of the Society is to explore, discover and share knowledge founded on evidence-based information for the purpose of understanding issues and making good decisions.
“I hope to bring to the Society my knowledge and experience of building and creative practice research, and Indigenous art and architectural history research, to assist in the Society’s mission to connect to, involve and assist diverse communities, professions and industries.”
Dr Brown is one of six researchers from the University of Auckland who will be formally inducted as Fellows at an event in Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington on 29 April.
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