Collecting Childhood is a Te Papa project focused on children growing up in New Zealand today, but it’s not just about the kids. They are central, and the aim is to represent their daily lives and key moments through objects, photographs, and their ongoing stories, but also of interest are their families and mothers.
Mother’s Day provides an opportunity to celebrate all that mothers mean to us – what they do and how central they are to family life. They are certainly pivotal to the success of the Collecting Childhood project. All have welcomed me into their homes and embraced the project with openness and generosity of spirit. I have found that just as each child participating in the project is unique, so too are the mothers.
The most recent round of research was completed in November 2015, and discussions about which objects Te Papa will collect to best represent the children and their interests are in progress. The children were 6 or 7 years old, and becoming increasingly independent, but the influence of their mothers continues to be enormous. For example, Green MP Marama Davison’s daughter Teina is growing up in a whānau (family) focused on fighting for environmental issues and human rights. To represent this, Teina donated a ‘Dolphin Defender’ sign used when she was on a protest march in 2014 calling for greater protection of the endangered Māui’s dolphin.
Activism is a big part of the Davidson’s lives, but so too is at home time – something all of the mothers involved in the project share, whether they are working full or part-time. All of the mothers are in paid work, but all do their best to prioritise the well-being of their children. Being a mother in the 21st century is a massive juggling act. The Growing Up in New Zealand research has shown that 53% percent of mothers were in paid employment by the time their children were two years old.
Another interesting point the Collecting Childhood project has thrown up is how much all the children enjoy simple activities like cooking, outdoor play, going to the park, and riding a bike.
Mikaere Haumaha lives with his whānau all around him. He spends most of his free time playing outside, riding his bike or skateboard, playing football or building huts, but he is always keen for a cuddle with his mum and his kuia (grandmother), whom he calls Maama. Mikaere and his brother hang out at their grandparent’s after school each day. Maama and Mikaere do lots of gardening in the vege patch, but it’s the flowers Mikaere loves the most.