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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Te Papa kaihautu looks to young Maori

The new Maori head at Te Papa is battling for the attention of a new generation of computer literate Maori.

Michelle Hippolite comes from background in senior policy roles within government.

She is looking forward to building on the work of past Kaihautu, especially Cliff Whiting, who created a place at the national museum for Maori.

A particular focus is working out how to present Maori culture and history to the next generation of tamariki.

“They use their cellphones, they use the Internet, they use Skype and a whole lot of other tools to do things we would have never dreamed of when we were their age so we’re having tio think through how do we best present something that taps into their minds and heart about the treasures and the taonga we have here in Te Papa,” Ms Hippolite says.

The musuem's equal leadership between kaihautu and chief executive was unique in the government sector and helps give Te Papa its flavour.


A Maori Party MP says any review of building codes should take into account the cultural needs of Maori and Pacific peoples.

The Minister of Building and Construction is proposing a fast track consent process for pre-certified building designs.

Hone Harawira says it's a good idea, but it also needed to apply to state houses, which have often failed to meet the needs of large Maori families.

“In a little state house, you’ve got a tiny little corridor, tiny little everything quite frankly, tiny little sitting room, tiny little kitchen. Bigger houses, less flash little bay windows and step ins and all that carry on and just nice and square but big, creating more space so that when people come to visit, there’s space to sit and talk,” Mr Harawira says.


One of the leaders of the Maori language revival says it may be time for iwi to start their own television services.

Huirangi Waikerepuru says this week's World Indigenous Television Broadcasting Conference in Auckland is hearing inspiring stories from people around the world.

He says many have faced greater challenges than in Aotearoa, where broadcasters have been able to build on the treaty claim he led for te reo Maori.

“They are doing it in a different way and not necessarily depending on government funding, which is a useful approach and one that we perhaps could think about ourselves in many ways because in the new set up, iwi development can come into play,” Mr Waikerepuru says.

Television has proved to be an effective way to normalise the use of indigenous languages in the home and among Maori people.


The author of a new book on Maori art of the last century says the carved meeting house proved to be an essential part of keeping a whole range of traditions alive.

Damian Skinner's The Carver and the Artist was launched in Tairawhiti yesterday.

it focuses on the carving tradition from Pine Taiapa to Lionel Grant, as well as modernists like Arnold Wilson, Para Matchitt and Selwyn Muru.

He says all Maori artists owe a huge debt to Apirana Ngata, the preeminent Maori political figure of the first half of the 20th century, who used his position to revive the traditional arts through house-building projects.

Ngata drew on his own childhood experience learning all the old chants and haka in preparation for the opening of the great Ngati Porou house Porourangi.

“He didn't see a wharenui or a whare whakairo just as a kind of building with art inside it. He actually saw it as the heart of a Maori community’s knowledge of itself, a Maori community’s ability to have cultural capital, to know who it was, the songs they should sing, the whakapapa. He saw it as a production that was well worth a group of people pumping a lot of resource into because it would actually keep the culture alive and sustain it in certain ways.

“And that’s where it was very interesting. His consolidation schemes and his economic development would always almost usually have a wharenui as part of them, and that was because they did all that stuff that he’d observed as a kid when Porourangi was being built and the importance of that, not just in terms of keeping art alive, like keeping carving or tukutuku or kowhaiwhai alive, but of but actually keeping the oral arts alive, keeping performance arts alive and giving a whole other generation the chance to experience those things,” Mr Skinner says.

Damian Skinner says Ngata's innovations quickly turned into a conservative set of rules, leading some of the younger artists to turn away from tradition and look for inspiration in western masters like Pablo Picasso.

The Carver and the Artist is published by Auckland University Press


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