Whina Te Whiu

Today's Tuakana is both a warm welcome and a sad farewell. I (Nina) have been lucky enough to work with Whina for the last 9 months at Auckland Museum. In a few weeks we say goodbye to her as she journeys back North to take up the role of Curator and Manager at Te Ahu Centre in Kaitaia. Her knowledge and passion for the sector is immense and infectious. What I will miss most about Whina though is that she always, always places people at the center of her work and with this always seeks the emotional core of it - whether that be a collection, a conversation, a relationship, an exhibition. She is a wellspring of ideas, of empathy and of aroha and I am so appreciative of our conversations over the brief time she has been in our team. 

Aroha nui wahine toa x


In five words, describe your role in the sector. 

Initiator and Challenger for alternatives

What is it about the sector that you love?

I love its people and the power of networks to initiate global sector changes from our Aotearoa.

For example, the Te Maori exhibition in the 1980's gave iwi Maori a space for indigenous voices and the Maori ways of seeing and experiencing taonga a worldwide platform for national and international communities to engage with Maori in this 'shared space'.  The idea began as a whisper initiated by Dr Hirini Moko Mead and that whisper was shared within the sector, and from there it grew like wildfire (gathering momentum and support) to create the very successful Te Maori Exhibition.

It changed the world, and continues to influence my path. 

What have been some challenges in your career?

Striking a balance between sense and sensibility. Knowing what is right and doing what is right, at the right time. 

What challenges can you see moving forward?

If I could offer a prophecy it would be a warning to museums against RRSI (Repetitive Relationship Stress Injury).

RRSI occurs due to the over responsive ways Museums involve communities in the museum space.

The process of consultation, engagement, involvement and participation in museum culture is exhausting to both the museum and the community of interest.

 I find asking these simple relationship questions can help to prevent RRSI.

 1. What do you want from this relationship? 

 2. What are you offering on the table and or what can you offer as an exchange for what you want from them.

 3. How long is this relationship going to last for?

Simple honesty. I know we want to impress the prospective partner but clarity and honesty also gives us both a shared space of understanding and equality from the onset.

What do you think people in the early stages of their careers can offer the sector?

Movement and changes.

In a museum of Whina, what is an object / taonga / specimen / artwork that you'd want in the collection?

Top Three:

 1.-Te Hokioi = full skeleton of a Haast eagle, they are stunning creatures.

 2. Te Whakaputanga 1825 = Declaration signed by Rangatira from Tai Tokerau Northland.

 3. Beethoven's piano.