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NMIT Director helps examine Māori treasures in US

News release – For immediate use

NMIT Director helps examine Māori treasures in US

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology’s Director of Māori Education, Tākuta ‘Doc’ Ferris, is among five Māori arts and culture experts from around the country selected for a New Zealand research trip to the United States to investigate Māori treasures.

Mr Ferris leaves New Zealand tomorrow (12 September) for a 10-day trip to Houston, Texas, where the group will view a collection of Taonga pūoro - traditional Māori musical instruments, from pre-European New Zealand now held in the Menil Gallery in Houston.

NMIT Chief Executive Tony Gray says it is always an honour to have the expertise of staff recognised by people outside of NMIT.

“NMIT strives to employ staff who are experts in their field and Doc is no exception,” Mr Gray says. “It is great to have his expertise acknowledged by others and for Doc to have the opportunity to share his knowledge beyond the classroom.”

The expedition’s project manager, Rangitunoa Black, says the trip has been in the planning for the past two years. She successfully applied for funding for the trip from United States-based Memnosyne Foundation, which aims to empower indigenous people to revive their culture and history.

“With their funding we have been able to bring together a group of people dedicated to their craft and culture who are all experts in their fields.”

Ms Black says Mr Ferris was selected because of his expertise in te reo Māori, Māori taonga, carving and education.

“Doc and his family are dedicated to taonga Māori, whether it’s in the form of te reo, the culture or our artefacts,” she says.

“He has a deep commitment to revitalising the Māori language and culture, and he is also an experienced carver in his own right, who makes and plays taonga pūoro.”

Mr Ferris’ iwi are Ngāti Kahungunu on his mother’s side and Ngāti Porou through his father. On his mother’s side he is connected to Whakatū by Ngāti Kuia and Ngāti Koata.

He joined NMIT as Director of Māori Education in late 2011, after a decade teaching the Bachelor of Māori Art and Design and Mātauranga Māori – Cultural Māori Studies, at Te Wānanga o Raukawa on the Kāpiti Coast. He is also a graduate of those programmes.

Mr Ferris has worked alongside the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa providing research on Māori artefacts held there. As a 16-year-old carver he helped build Te Papa’s marae - Te Marae.

Mr Ferris says it is a privilege to be selected for this prestigious event.

“My role will be to provide advice around what’s carved on these instruments, what they represent, which iwi area they come from and how old they are.”

The taonga pūoro currently held in Menil Gallery date back to pre-European New Zealand, possibly before 1825.

“The provenance on the whole collection has been provided, however the information is very basic,” Ms Black says.

While in Houston, the group will have access to a recording studio, forensic facility to examine the instruments and access to the Māori taonga Puoro collection, as well as the other Maori artefacts that are housed at the Menil.

“This is a really huge honour and privilege. Part of the learning journey for Māori is being able to have direct and unimpeded access to their taonga,” she says.

“It’s the first time that an indigenous group who are not curators, academics, or government officials, have been given an opportunity to curate, record, document and research their own history in a United States museum. How much is this trip worth? It’s priceless.”

The trip is being documented by TVNZ One’s Waka Huia programme by producers Christopher Winitana and Tinamaree Kaipara.

© Scoop Media

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