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Scholarship awarded to Elam and Māori Studies student

Scholarship awarded to Elam and Māori Studies student to research tapa

A young woman with a passion for Māori taonga has been awarded the inaugural Sir Hugh Kawharu Scholarship at Auckland Museum to research the production practises and uses of tapa cloth in Aotearoa.

Nikau Hindin, of Te Rarawa and Ngapuhi descent is in her third-year of a conjoint Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Auckland, where she is undertaking projects which employ indigenous traditional knowledge.

She recently returned from a year at the University of Hawai’i studying traditional arts. While there she learnt the practice of beating kapa – the Hawaiian term for tapa. “The process resonated with me and my teacher told me that Māori also made tapa cloth. It surprised me that I knew so little about its existence,” she says.

The first Māori arrivals had clothes fashioned from tapa made from the aute plant (paper mulberry), but it was too cold in most parts of the country for the species to thrive. Nikau plans to research aute including the climate it grew best in and the whakatauki or proverbs associated with it. As well as investigating the production of the cloth she hopes to locate stories about tapa/aute from kaumātua.

As part of her studio practice at Elam School of Fine Arts, she will also focus on recreating the traditional tools used by her ancestors to make tapa. To date she has produced a Māori tapa beaters, based on old ones, from pohutukawa wood, using toki or adze and pipi shells. Next she plans to make her own tapa using the bark from an aute tree growing at Waipapa Marae, at the University.

“When I first started my degree I attended classes taught by Dante Bonica in the Māori Studies Department. We examined the Auckland Museum’s collection of taonga tawhito, chose an artefact and recreated it using traditional methods. From this experience, my appreciation for the ingenuity and craftsmanship of our tupuna grew and ignited my desire to learn more about their material practices,” she says.

”We were very impressed by the obvious passion Nikau has for Māori heritage,” says Chanel Clarke, Auckland Museum’s Curator, Māori. “And we’re particularly pleased she intends to utilise the items in the Museum’s collections in new and interesting ways to further that passion.

“Nikau plans to share the knowledge gained during her research project with her peers, whanau and community. This is exactly the kind of leadership the Museum, and the Kawharu Foundation, were hoping to encourage as a result of this scholarship,” continues Chanel.

The $10,000 grant, available to a full-time student of Māori descent who has an interest in cultural heritage, is offered by the Kawharu Foundation in partnership with Auckland Museum.

In addition to the grant, Nikau will receive the benefit of an academic mentor from Auckland Museum for the duration of her studies.


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