Watch the discussion here

Following is a full-length recording of this event, which took place in Te Ao Mārama, the new South Atrium at Auckland Museum, on Mon 7 Dec. 

MON 7 DEC, 6.30PM - 8.30PM



Fuluhi ki tua ke kitia mitaki a mua
Look to the past to clearly see the way forward

The Ngā Kākano wānanga series has been slowly growing within the Museum, enriching it with deep cultural knowledge and value that is specific to Māori and Pasifika over the past three years. It is a moment in time where indigenous knowledge is brought to the fore and valued, countering the dominant colonial knowledge of things.

The series has been filled with national and international Māori and Pasifika speakers of great renown and deep cultural mana, for example Kumu Aulií Mitchell from Hawaii, Reuben Taipari and Heeni Hoterene, Precious Clark, Lady Dowager Tuna Fielakepa nee Tonga, Lisa Taouma and Damon Salesa to name a few. The Museum is developing a reputation for providing a space specifically for its whānau and wider audiences to be enlightened with seeds of great Māori and Pasifika knowledge and experiences, to be given access to these speakers and share in a safe space to ask questions.



E kore au e ngaro, he kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea.
I will never be lost for the seed was sown in Rangiātea.

The Ngā Kakano wānanga series takes its name from this whakataukī. Ngā Kākano provides an opportunity for our whānau and wider audiences to attend special events held at Tāmaki Paenga Hira and learn from respected Māori and Pasifika leaders and experts who share their unique experience, perspectives, expertise and insights - laying seeds of knowledge at Tāmaki Paenga Hira, in Tāmaki Herenga Waka, Aotearoa and indeed across Te Moana nui a Kiwa.


We have endured a year of difficult and unprecedented change, where the well-being of our people and environment continues to be tested. The Museum is ideally placed to strengthen and uplift our unique identities, values, knowledge systems and experiences through our taonga, people and special place at Tāmaki Paenga Hira - building our individual and collective resilience so that our current generation can continue to adapt and evolve through this challenging time for our future generations. The wisdom of our indigenous knowledge systems is becoming more widely recognised, especially here in Aotearoa where museum experts, scientists and scholars are working closely with our community kaitiaki and knowledge holders on shared solutions for the well-being of our people and environment.

This has meant an opportunity to take Ngā Kākano to a deeper level, with two special events annually – museum based thought and enlightenment from our unique perspectives in Aotearoa and the Pacific. We also have a newly transformed space that embodies the inextricable interconnection between the Māori and Pacific dimensions at Tāmaki Paenga Hira, and the above whakataukī, uplifting the mana of Ngā Kākano and the vā of our speakers and audiences. Thus, in this new space we will bring to an end 2020 and re-invigorate a new 2021 with this special Ngā Kākano talk continuing the conversation on de-colonising and indigenising museums from leading changemakers to imagine possible futures.

Speaker Information

Sandra Kailahi

Moderated by

Sandra Kailahi

Sandra worked as a journalist in mainstream and Pacific media for over two decades working for programmes such as Tagata Pasifika, Fair Go, Te Karere, One News and TVNZ 7.  She now specialises in Communications for Social Change and works as the Chief Storyteller for Pacific social change agency, The Cause Collective based in Manukau.  She's an author, playwright and a film producer. Sandra produced her first feature documentary, For My Father’s Kingdom in 2019 which had its World Premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.   This year she co-created and co-wrote the Tongan Bilingual web series, Brutal Lives. She currently sits on the New Zealand Film Commission board.

The panel

Emeritus Prof Ngāhuia Te Awekōtuku

Keynote Speaker

Emeritus Prof Ngāhuia Te Awekōtuku

Emeritus Prof Ngāhuia Te Awekōtuku grew up in Ōhinemutu, Rotorua. Her PhD in cultural psychology (1981) focused on Māori and tourism, reflecting a lifelong passion for heritage issues. Her research on culture, gender, and sexuality has been published extensively. Publications include: He Tikanga Whakaaro : Research Ethics in the Māori Community (1991), and Mau Moko: The World of Māori Tattoo (2007)  In 2013 she worked on the National Library suffrage exhibition Tirohia Mai: Look at Us Now. She curated the 2015 award winning E Ngā Ūri Whakatupu : Weaving Legacies, a two year retrospective of the sublime works of Dame Rangimarie Hetet and Diggeress Te Kanawa, writing a small but lavish catalogue. She received the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Te Pou Aronui Award, and was also honoured as a Fellow of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. As an Emeritus Professor, she serves as one of three Ruānuku (venerables!) for Nga Pāe o te Māramatanga, the National Māori Centre of Research Excellence.  

Sheridan Waitai

Sheridan Waitai

Sheridan Waitai is of Ngāti Kurī descent and grew up in Te Hiku o te Ika.  With significant experience in legislation and the policy environment in relation to indigenous issues, she has contributed to environmental, social, education and health initiatives.

She is the lead for her iwi for the WAI262 Fauna and Flora Claim, and Island work on Motu o Pao (Cape Maria Van Diemen) Manawatāwhi (Three Kings) and  Rangitāhua (Kermadec Island) proposed Sanctuary and coordinates a range of relationships and partners nationally, and globally, to achieve shared prosperity, community resilience and mana motuhake for Ngāti Kurī.

In 2015, Sheridan worked with the Museum to conduct an expedition around Rangitāhua and Manawatāwhi  and has been instrumental in building a strong relationship between the Museum and Ngāti Kurī, paving the way for a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out the rules of engagement, a work programme to achieve the goals of Ngati Kurī’s strategic flightpath Te Ara Whānui, hands-on science and important wider partnerships with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA); Manaaki Whenua, Landcare Research; and the Universities of Auckland, Christchurch and Otago.

The strength of the Museum’s relationship with Ngāti Kurī is a testament to Sheridan’s leadership, and expertise in the natural enviroment and her work to deliver projects and activities on the ground. The unique values, knowledge, approach and determination she brings to the partnership has generated commitment and contributions from wider Ngāti Kurī, and interest from a growing range of scientists and researchers, volunteers and strategic partners.  

Sheridan’s work has been instrumental in informing how iwi, indigenous communities, scientists and organisations can work together to interweave mātauranga Māori perspectives and knowledge with Western Scientific perspectives. 

Dr Albert Refiti

Dr Albert Refiti

Leali’ifano Dr Albert L. Refiti is Associate Professor of Art and Design at Auckland University of Technology where he is co-leader of the Vā Moana Research Cluster in the Faculty of Design and Creative Technology. He has written on contemporary Pacific culture and architecture and has researched and worked with museums on Indigenous design strategies of Pacific and Oceanic collections at the Auckland Museum, Melbourne Museum and The Metropolitan Museum in New York. 

Nigel Borell

Nigel Borell

Nigel Borell (Pirirakau, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi, Te Whakatōhea) is Curator Māori Art, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki where his research in both customary and contemporary Māori art is produced for publication and exhibition making. Borell has a background that includes, tertiary art education, curating and writing on Māori art. His formative training includes working under master carver Pakāriki Harrison on three community meeting house projects (1995-2000) before embarking in full-time study graduating with a Bachelor of Māori Visual Art from Massey University, Palmerston North (2001) followed by a Master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, The University of Auckland (2003). 

Recent curatorial projects include: co-curating with Zara Stanhope Moa Hunter Fashions by Areta Wilkinson, for 9th Asia Pacific Triennial, QAGOMA, Brisbane (2018) and The Māori Portraits: Gottfried Lindauer’s New Zealand, deYoung Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco (2017) while current projects include the curatorium to Histōrias Indīgenas- Indigenous Histories at Museu de Art de (MASP), São Paulo, Brazil (2021) and Toi Tū Toi ora: Contemporary Māori Art Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (2020-2021).  

Zech Soakai

Zech Soakai

Zech Soakai is a young Pasifika poet, performer, educator, and change-maker. He works in the spaces where equity, performing arts and education intersect. He was a part of the inaugural Youth Advisory Group for Tāmaki Paenga Hira, going on to chair the advisory panel, and later moving on to being, one of two youth members on the Pacific Advisory group. Zech believes relentlessly in the limitless potential, talent and excellence that exists within our Māori and Pasifika youth, and is interested in the ways in which Museums, as a decolonising space, might amplify their voices, and create spaces for them to dream up worlds where their innate excellence might flourish.


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