Posts written by Sean Mallon

Opinion: why we should beware of the word ‘traditional’

Portrait of Albert Wendt; 1996; Photographer: Hamish McDonald

In 1994, four years before the opening of Te Papa, Samoan novelist and scholar Albert Wendt was an advisor for the planned Pacific exhibitions. He requested that we abandon the use of terms like ‘traditional art’ in our labels and display signage. ‘Traditional means nothing to me!’ he said. At the time, I didn’t understand… Read more »

The changing art of tatau: Samoan tattooing

Two Samoan men tattoo a man lying on the floor

Currently on level 5 at Te Papa, the exhibition Whakarakei | Adorned, brings together paintings, prints, and cultural treasures to explore the art of adornment in Māori and Pacific cultures. In the latest issue of Te Papa’s online art magazine, Off the wall, Rebecca Rice and Nina Tonga asked Sean Mallon, Senior Curator Pacific Cultures,… Read more »

Remembering Tufuga Holoatu Lagatule (1938-2016) – leader among the Pacific communities in Christchurch

Tufuga-Holoatu-Lagatule

Recently the Pacific Cultures team at Te Papa were informed of the passing of one our elders and leaders, Tufuga Holoatu Lagatule. She was born in Niue and came to New Zealand as a teenager in 1957. She became an important figure among the Pacific communities living in Christchurch, in New Zealand’s South Island, where… Read more »

Opinion: Curating for the Contemporary Pacific; 95 theses (New Zealand edition)

In the last six months, the arts and cultures of the Pacific have loomed large in New Zealand and Australia through a range of exhibitions, events and symposia. From Queensland’s Asia Pacific Triennial 8, the ground breaking 2016 Pacific Arts Association Symposium, Tautai’s Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust Arts 30 year exhibition, and the promise of… Read more »

Kalani‘ōpu‘u’s gift to Cook: a sacred cloak and its history of display

’ahu ’ula ( feathered cloak), 1700s, Hawaii, maker unknown. Gift of Lord St Oswald, 1912. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (FE000327)

  In 1779, the chief of Hawai‘i Island, Kalani‘ōpu‘u, who traced his regal line to the great chief Līloa of Waipiʻo, greeted an English captain named James Cook after his ship made port in Kealakekua Bay. As a demonstration of his goodwill, Kalani‘ōpu‘u gifted the ‘ahu ʻula (feathered cloak) and mahiole (feathered helmet) he was… Read more »

Star Wars and the Fiji connection: redux

Totokia (club), 1800s, Fiji, maker unknown. Oldman Collection. Gift of the New Zealand Government, 1992. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (OL000130.S/5)

The movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened in New Zealand on 17 December. But did you know the franchise has a connection to the warriors of 19th century Fiji? Fijian weapons had a small role in the imaginings for one of the most successful science fiction films of all time….George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977)…. Read more »

On the weekend, 33 tattooists from around the world took part in Indigenous Ink 2015 – a tattooing festival held in Auckland at MIT Manukau. Te Papa was there at the invitation of organiser Terry Koloamatangi Klavenes. I had a small role hosting presentations and conversations among the tattooists and their supporters. It was a privilege… Read more »

Tattooing is thousands of years of years old, and is a most visible part of New Zealand’s contemporary visual culture. It is a key expression of Maori identity and among Pacific Islands communities it is an important signifier of our cultural diversity – what connects us and what makes us different. This weekend (21-22 Nov) 33 tattoo… Read more »