Amber Aranui

Today's Tuakana is someone who, in all my times at Te Papa, has been a friendly and welcoming presence. During my current time at Te Papa I've had the joy of getting to know her better and hearing more about the mahi taumaha that she undertakes as part of the Karanga Aotearoa repatriation team. She knows so much about this kaupapa but is so humble and self-effacing that it took me a while to fully understand the impact of the work she does. Aside from that, she plays taonga puoro, has a menagerie of animals at her house (selling the eggs from some of them!), is in the final stages of her PhD and is consistently supportive, caring and there for a laugh if you need one. Amber, ngā mihi aroha e hoa.


In five words, describe your role in the sector. (The five word limit is for this question only)

To bring back our tūpuna.

What is it about the sector that you love?

I love that can do something meaningful for my people and at the same time learn so much about the diversity of a sector I never saw myself working in.

What have been some challenges in your career?

One challenge is never having enough time in that day, and another is ensuring that you don’t take your mahi home with you. It is easy to get caught up in research and not want to stop at the end of the day. But you have to especially in this type of mahi. In a broader context I think it is a challenge to ensure that people understand why returning ancestors back to iwi, hapū and whānau is important, not only for Māori but for many other indigenous people throughout the world, this is a challenge I am faced with particularly when I speak overseas. But if I can make just one person understand or empathise then I have done my job.

What challenges can you see moving forward?

I know that our programme, and my role in it, has an end date, when that is I’m not sure, but it is not a life time career. The challenge for me is what next? As much as I love my mahi, I must always be thinking what am I going to do in the future. Luckily being a researcher you have a particular set of skills that can be transferred to almost any other research based role, so the world is my oyster.

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

New blood is important in this industry, they come with new ideas, new ways of seeing and understanding, and most importantly they are setting the tone and making the rules for the future of this sector. It’s an exciting thought. We are no longer a stale, static, frozen in time institution, the walls are literally coming down, the roof is being blown off and its time to make their mark in this sector. It sounds very fanciful I know but if this is where your passion lies, then just do it!!!

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

Hinaki of all shapes and sizes. For some reason I am fascinated by them, their construction, materials, vast array of sizes and not to mention the reason for their construction… to catch tuna (eels).