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Urbanlife 2014: youth voices in Auckland Museum

Urbanlife 2014: youth voices in Auckland Museum

by Bethany Edmunds - Monday, 12 May 2014

For the month of February 2014 a group of five young women were chosen to participate in Auckland Museum’s Urbanlife Summer Youth Programme. The group immersed themselves in the Museum’s rich history, its collection stories, and spent time with collections and research staff to understand the work that Museum staff do.

Led by Youth Outreach Programmer Bethany Edmunds, the group took part in workshops to identify common youth experiences, and develop a series of actions to improve their situation and inspire their peers. During these collaborative sessions the Urbanlife participants developed a set of creative tools to critique, respond and articulate their thoughts through research and experiences. This blog presents a sample of this work; a series of personal responses to objects on display at Auckland Museum.

Tivaevae Taorei – Aitutaki, Cook Islands

by Amiria Puia-Taylor

Tivaevae taorei - a patchwork quilt from the Auckland Museum collection.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.
I walked through the Pacific Lifeways gallery and there she was, The Tivaevae Taorei.

I didn’t feel like there were enough words in the labels’ description below her to describe how she got there or who made her. Once I read the words, ‘Aitutaki’ and ‘Cook Islands’ my heart was content.

It was a little weird returning to Auckland Museum as an intern not an art student. At first I was a little lost and unsure of how to behave in the Museum, but once I saw her I felt connected. Almost like the first day of school where you cling on to the first nice person you meet or to someone you know. You become attached.

I was fortunate to grow up  in a very multicultural lifestyle, with mixed blood of Māori, Cook Island, Samoan and Tahitian, living between urban and rural situations. No matter what side of the family I’m on, family has always been my number one priority. Nobody is to go through anything alone.

Along with the creative genes, I was blessed with strong whanau values. Seeing this taonga with a simple light on it surrounded by Pasifika makes me feel at home, although she was in her own little area amongst smaller Cook Island taonga, she was a long way from the Motherland.

I was inspired to write a spoken word piece that calls to the taonga itself, almost like a conversation to help the taonga know that I am here and that its not too far from home, and that I know exactly what it is.

You are remarkable

You are remarkable.
You so hang highly.
So bright in colour, so bounded in botany.
Grid locked and held tight by such symmetry
Stitch by stitch and loop by loop
You bring laughter and chatter
And high-pitched melodies
It is Unity who makes community.
The ladies they all want to fuss and fight over you
They pick and pull and prod at you.
And there you are
You still manage to ease us, settle us and therapute us.

You remind me sooooo much of my mother!!
You miss nothing in sight.
Babies being blessed,
Cousin’s haircutting
Sister’s birthdays
Brothers Graduation.
You go from Mother to Daughter,
From one to another.
Love and Marriage,
Til death do you part.

You like to show off, you provoke a Mama’s mumble under her breath.
Your fragrance lingers of musty tipani
You like to show everyone just how you beautiful you can be.

You are a gift
A prize.
An heirloom.
A history.
A luxury.
A story.
Tivaevae Taorei YOU are!

Time tells all

by Bridget Addy

Rossm John (c.1770) Turret clock.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira, 1990.112, H432
“I hang tall, filed down to almost nothing. I am a turret clock, but I have no tower. Circa 1800s. Taken from John Ross, taken from Tain [Scotland], I can’t tell if this is travel provided me loss or gain. Created when local times were key, New Zealand needed a clock, didn’t know it was going to be me.

“They used movement to do it. Underneath the heavy blanket of night. I had long golden hands, filed and cut to nil. I stood so tall, but now I live in almost two pieces. With nothing but my gears and here. Why am I not back home? Although it makes me feel wanted, what makes me so special? I hear the whispers of the Curators saying I’m only on display because ‘it would be a hassle to find space in B2′.

“Although I do love the company of Aucklanders around the clock, I do love it when my fellow Scots come through. What I hear from the visitors, Auckland seems like a lovely place. Much like Tain I suppose. Rolling hills, friendly people and decent food. Well from what I’ve gathered in my time here, correct me if I’m wrong, it’s not very often (or ever), that I visit outside these Museum walls.

“Oh and could someone please tell me where I left my clothes? I feel awfully naked.”

Webster’s pipe organ

by Daryl Webster

Photo showing the white keys that were cut from sperm-whale teeth obtained by the Bay of Islands whalers.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.
“I see your keys white and black like a zebra dancing to be freed, yet their hidden and protected behind a glass window that stops the unwanted from marking you. Your soul will forever remain silent and unawaken until some hopeful talent plays you again.


“This pipe organ was built by William Webster, between 1845 and 1850. It was built part from cedar imported from Australia, but the remainder, including the flute pipes, was made of native woods such as kauri, kahikatea, matai, and tanekaha. The white keys were cut from sperm-whale teeth obtained from the Bay of Islands whalers, while the black keys were dyed using the same methods Maoris used to traditionally dye their mats.

“The organ was given to Webster’s daughter. Mrs. John McK. Geddes, of Auckland and remained in the family until 1940. Then it was presented to the former Old Colonist’s Museum, whose collections were presented to the Auckland War Memorial Museum in 1966.”

Restoring the organ

“The organ has been restored at least twice since coming into the Museum in the early 1960’s. The first restoration, in 1965, was not documented. The second restoration in 1984 was intended to return the organ to playing condition, which was a condition of its bequest. The mechanism was completely overhauled, and several original parts replaced.

“The decorative organ pipes on the case had been sanded down during the 1984 restoration, removing most of the traces of the original gilding. The surface was then spray painted with gold car paint.”


“The organ was placed in the Encounter Gallery, which opened in November 2006. The decision was made to initially concentrate on the appearance of the organ, rather than on the state of the mechanism, which had deteriorated since the organ was put into storage.

“The organ is still on show in the Encounter Gallery at the Auckland Museum where you can still go and see it today.”

Peruvian cuchimilco: female figure

by Harumi Chu

Harumi Chu is an 18 year old Urbanlife intern from Peru. Being Peruvian she feels proud to have a bit of her culture in New Zealand.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.
“This pretty ceramic is one of the recognized “Cuchimilco” figures or female figures from the Chancay Culture in Peru. Most of those figures have been discovered in many Chancay tombs as funerary effigies, which are quite common in ancient Peruvian cultures. The “Cuchimilcos” were created around 1000 and 1450 AD and they were located in Chancay, which is a few kilometres north of the capital of Peru, Lima.

These figures are shaped in half-moon that is pretty common in female figures because the gender was related to the moon. The figures were painted with light colours and big round eyes, which implies that she feels scared. By having the hands up, this can be represented as a religious ritual of prayer.”

Get to know more about the Chancay culture:

  • Located in the coastal region of Peru
  • The Chancay period was from 1000 to 1470 AD
  • They had distinctive designs for textiles and ceramics
  • They developed a good trade relations which other regions
  • Did you know that Auckland Museum has not one, but many items from Peru?

“They have a diverse potteries, textiles and utensils of ancient cultures from Peru in their collections. The piece I chose is one that are on display in the ancient worlds gallery.”

My poem:

Are you scared?

Are you scared?
What is the matter?
Don’t you see that is nothing to fear
You are a model
Not an object
You are beauty
Not disaster

Samoan fue fly whisk

by Katerina Fox-Matamua

Portrait of two men, High Chief Tupua Tamasese Titiamaea and his Tulafale-Talking Chief.

© Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira.
“In the Samoan culture the fly whisk/fue is a symbol of honour and respect. It is used by the Orator chief other known as the speaking chief and before he would do his speech the Orator would put the fly whisk over his shoulders three times to gain attention.”

“When I saw a fly whisk hanging in the Auckland Museum I thought of the fly whisk I have hanging at my house and how I’ve never really understood the story of how that fly whisk got there.

“So I asked my dad (Charles Matamua) about it and he said that it was presented to him by the staff of Cadbury at his farewell party. They dressed the cafe room in a Samoan Village feast theme then continued to dress my dad as a chief and preformed some traditional Samoan items. Needless to say my father was spoilt.”

“Dad then told me to ask my aunty Beverley if I wanted to know more about the fly whisk. Along with telling me about the use and meaning of the fly whisk, my aunt told me that she and my dad and are registered chiefs on my Grandma Sose Te’o side of the family. Dad’s chief name is Salomalo and he is the Orator of our family.”

Here’s the spoken word poem I wrote about the fly whisk:

I am the chief of my home

I am the chief of my home
I have trust and honourI respect my history and accept my family story

My ancestors have given me the strength I need.

  • Post by: Bethany Edmunds

    Bethany Edmunds is Auckland Museums Youth Outreach Programmer. Outside of work she is an artist, weaver and MC and has a history in museum collections and material culture research. She is passionate about creating opportunities for young people to see the potential of taonga to activate personal responses, using creative tools and Mātauranga Māori, and connecting out to their communities.

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