From 1919 to 1923, at Sir Apirana Ngata’s initiative, a team from the Dominion Museum travelled to tribal areas across Te Ika-a-Māui The North Island to record tikanga Māori (ancestral practices) that Ngata feared might be disappearing.
These ethnographic expeditions, the first in the world to be inspired and guided by indigenous leaders, used cutting-edge technologies that included cinematic film and wax cylinders to record fishing techniques, art forms (weaving, kōwhaiwhai, kapa haka and mōteatea), ancestral rituals and everyday life in the communities they visited.
The team visited the 1919 Hui Aroha in Gisborne, the 1920 welcome to the Prince of Wales in Rotorua, and communities along the Whanganui River (1921) and in Tairāwhiti (1923). Medical doctor-soldier-ethnographer Te Rangihīroa (Sir Peter Buck), the expedition’s photographer and film-maker James McDonald, the ethnologist Elsdon Best and Turnbull Librarian Johannes Andersen recorded a wealth of material.
This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of these expeditions, and the determination of early twentieth century Māori leaders, including Ngata, Te Rangihiroa, James Carroll, and those in the communities they visited, to pass on ancestral tikanga ‘hei taonga mā ngā uri whakatipu’ as treasures for a rising generation.
Natalie Robertson (Ngāti Porou, Clann Dhònnchaidh) is a photographic and moving image artist and Senior Lecturer at Auckland University of Technology, Tāmaki Makaurau. Much of her practice is based in Tairāwhiti, her East Coast Ngāti Porou homelands, where her focus is on her ancestral Waiapu River and the protracted catastrophic impacts of colonisation, deforestation and agriculture. She has exhibited extensively in public institutions throughout New Zealand and internationally. She photographed for the award-winning book A Whakapapa of Tradition: One Hundred Years of Ngāti Porou Carving, 1830–1930, written by Ngarino Ellis (Auckland University Press, 2016).
Links: Te Papa Press