Ngā Taonga o Wharawhara / Māori Body Adornment

University of Auckland

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Ngā Taonga o Wharawhara / Māori Body Adornment

  • Host University

    University of Auckland

  • Location

    Auckland, New Zealand

  • Area of Study

    Art History, Indigenous Studies, New Zealand Culture

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • Credit Points

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
    3 - 4
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
    4 - 6
  • Overview

    Project description

    The Ngā Taonga o Wharawhara / Māori Body Adornment project aims to produce new research on the history of Māori body adornment to the present day. This field is under-researched, and the project promotes the idea of a continuum of practice of Māori artists in relation to the use of materials, the changing technologies, and the ways in which adornment has been and continues to be integrated into the social, political, economic and cultural landscape of whānau, hapū and iwi.


    Researcher’s work

    This research will focus on global collections of Māori adornment on the one hand, and literature about indigenous adornment on the other. Adornments in this project were made from pounamu, wood, bone and stone, and include hei tiki, hei matau, kuru, kapeu, pekapeka, pōria, koropepe, rei puta, rei niho, as well as the containers they were kept in, waka huia and papahou.

    Each researcher will focus on:

    1. The first researcher will be based in the Auckland Museum Library. In the mid-1980s the Ethnologist at Auckland Museum, David Simmons, undertook a full year’s field research to museums overseas to identify taonga Māori resident there. He took black and white photographs, and made extensive field notes of each of the museums that he visited. He also wrote summaries of the collections, both typologically and geographically. These resources are now in the Auckland Museum Library. This student will align these archives together to establish a single coherent inventory and write a commentary on global collections of Māori adornment overseas.


    1. The second researcher will research and write a literature review and annotated bibliography on Indigenous adornment, both historically and today. This includes those made by Native Americans, Canadians, Inuit, Pacific, Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islands. It might also extend out, depending on the research, to other cultures for whom adornment is an important cultural tradition. What is the significance of adornment in these cultures? What kinds of meanings and messages are embodied in the physical adornments, but also in the practices of adorning the body? What influences have prompted change in their making and reception?

    A final 5,000-word report will present the researchers’ findings.


    Required Skills/Pre-requisites

    • Research skills: being able to identify important online and in-library sources, organise them into type and tribal affiliation, and maybe date, and synthesise them into an extended report.
    • PDF processing: scanning all relevant documents, particularly images of adornments
    • Dropbox: where all the scanned documents and final Review will be stored.
    • Time management skills: they should be a self-starter, and able to work by themselves with the supervisor’s support.
    • A willingness to learn about different art forms and cultures, and who has preferably done course/s on Global Art Histories and/or Anthropology of Art.
    • A knowledge and passion for Art History. Ideally the student will also have their own or access to a laptop on which to work for the project.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.


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