Tuakana: Martin Lewis

For our first Tuakana of the year, I'd like to introduce one of the backbones of our mahi here at Te Papa: Martin Lewis. Martin is one of the librarians who work really closely with my (Matariki) team and has one of the most impressive talents for recall that I've ever seen. With every little query we have, Martin has suggestions pouring at us before we've even begun. Aside from being an absolute whizzbang gem of a librarian, he's a genuinely kind and warm person. I've held numerous positions and internships at Te Papa over the past 8 years and Martin's friendly face and supportive ear has been a constant, so thank you Martin. I'm sure there are many invisible virtual claps occurring right now as people read this.

In five words, describe your role in the sector. 

Connecting people, knowledge & things (mostly stolen from our teams Purpose statement, but so true)

What is it about the sector that you love?

Meeting history, interacting with the things that were ‘there’ at a point of time or event.  It’s one thing to know the stories of a time long gone, but to see (and better yet hold) something that was present at X moment is powerful.  It is even more powerful when you are connecting people to these stories, especially if they have a direct connection.  And then being able to share that experience and the stories is what gets me up in the morning. 

What have been some challenges in your career?

Stereotypes around Library/information management – ‘oh you work in a library/museum, must be great to read all those books/look at the exhibitions everyday’ or ‘why do we need a library/do information management in the age of Mr Google (Or Trump ‘info age’)’.  That sort of thing is always fun to encounter, you have to see it as an opportunity to bring people on board.  Always comes down to showing your worth to your organisation/customer base – being agile and adapting to new technology or emerging trends and fashions is important.  Kim Tairi, University Librarian at AUT calls it ‘Be like Bowie’.  David Bowie changed and moved with the times, always reinventing himself and staying awesome.  Keeping on the edge of the knowledge wave like this is our biggest challenge, especially when you don’t have limitless funds. 

What challenges can you see moving forward?

Staying relevant, funding and storage.  Doubt I need to expand on that because I imagine everyone in the GLAM sector is nodding right now!

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

New folks bring new ideas and ways of doing things, ideas, research, technology application and viewpoints that could be outside our current sphere.  Early stage folk are critical in staying in the game, it is important for people to challenge assumptions us ol’ timers may have made, open the doors we closed because of our experience ‘back then’.  (also remind us when we keep slipping into old patterns to deal with new issues)  Sure sometimes there will be good reason to not revisit certain things or do things the same way for 150 years but if you don’t have a fresh pair of eyes on it you risk just slowly travelling down a well-worn rut to irrelevance.  Combine that with they’re the future of the sector, they’re damn important!  

What is your spirit animal?

Typical boy response was a Wolf.  Typical Research librarian, googled up a quiz and became a Bear…  I’d be happy with eitherWould Bowie count as a spirit guide? (Ed note: Bowie absolutely counts as a spirit guide.)

Flight Path - Salote Tawale

Here is a podcast.

The podcast is me hanging out and recording things with my friends who are artists.

It’s called ‘Flight Path’ because its about the different trajectories, influences and motivations of my artist friends. I also like birds. Especially the albatross who, with its massive wingspan, goes on crazy long distance flights during which it cries salty tears as it filters the sea water it drinks. Those salty tears are realised in the tukutuku pattern Roimata Tōroa. He tauira hei hokinga mahara nē? Taking off, going the distance and remembering where you’re from: Flight Path (insert classic kiwi BBQ reggae song about knowing you’re roots…?). ‘Albatross’ is also a Fleetwood Mac song, just like ‘Tusk’ – bit of a stretch there.

Being a Māori artist/curator is like being a player/coach. Sometimes you’re playing and sometimes you’re on the side line cheering and figuring out a game plan for your team. This podcast is unashamedly part of my game plan.

The first two episodes of Flight Path have been generously supported financially and morally by the ‘Emerging Curators Programme’ facilitated through The Physics Room, Blue Oyster and Creative New Zealand.

Flight Path Episode One:

Salote Tawale

Salote and I became such good friends during the Indigenous Visual and Digital Arts Residency in Banff, Canada that although we’d only just met, people thought we’d known each other for years. I even started to get annoyed at her like a sister because I was always waiting for her. We made some art together, including recreating scenes from ‘The Shining’ at The Banff Hotel, after High Tea of course. A favourite Banff moment is when she thought we were getting attacked by elks and she sprinted past me in her iconic blue and yellow mountaineering down jacket, yelling in her loud as Aussie accent ‘Get inside! Quick! Quick!’. Once safe and panting inside, some polite Canadians quietly told us that the hoofed animal tuned out to be a super tame deer. Aside from being a kind and hilarious person, Salote is a considerate artist who makes dope work. Proper credentials here

Bridget Reweti

Tuhoekana: Leanne Tamaki

When thinking of Leanne's contribution to our tuakana series I came up with the awesome portmanteau of 'Tūhoekana' as she continues my work tradition of working with Tuhoe big sisters who know the pull of home, what keeps us in the cities and crucially, have my back. Though I worked at MCH with Leanne for over a year, it was only in the last few months that I really got a chance to work more closely with her. And it was awesome. She was supportive, fun, funny and always up for a good rant. More importantly, Leanne is thoughtful and empathetic and knows the power of a good de-brief over kai. I miss working with her immensely but hopefully we can stir up some good cross-sector mahi. Byeeee Felicia!

Leanne's pa and maunga in Waimana

Leanne's pa and maunga in Waimana

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

Facilitator. Peace/War. Researcher. Maori. History.

What is it about the sector that you love?

History, art, culture, and people – what’s not to love? But seriously, the opportunities we have through the work we do to inspire, to educate and elicit a deeper and better understanding of ourselves as a people. To quote Manulani Aluli Meyer - “If knowledge is power, then understanding is liberation.” 

What have been some challenges in your career?

Getting full-time well-paid permanent positions. Parity.

Working where there are few Maori and we are spread so thinly across the organisation. We can be called upon for our cultural knowledge which is sometimes outside of our JDs. *subtext – not valued. 

It can also be quite lonely and I want to be in a work environment where my culture is cherished. I want to be with people where my cultural values sync and resonate, where I can safely wax-lyrical about the state of our hapu and iwi nations...

What challenges can you see moving forward?

I don’t think what I have to say is new or unique, but here goes:

  • Broadening perspectives and questioning the dominant notions of culture and heritage (and all of its parts like history). But particularly in Wellington where, to be frank, we live in a very middle-class and Pakeha vacuum. Can we ask simple questions such as, whose culture and heritage are we advocating for, representing and presenting?
  • Prioritising the importance of Maori culture and heritage so that it is a given. Moving recognition beyond box ticking, compartmentalization or a ‘nice-to-have’. Helping us along the pathway to where we compassionately and easily embrace, celebrate and integrate things Maori. Also recognising that the benefits in doing this are many. It’s not privileging one over another; it is but another window through which to see. It is an opportunity for growth and it should be taken.
  • Creating space for diverse narratives, specific to my current situation, historical ones. And for more people to facilitate the telling of these narratives, but particularly in a sector with dwindling budgets and competing priorities.
  • Celebrating diversity and seeing it as an opportunity to strengthen ourselves. Not fearing the acceptance and incorporation of other cultural perspectives from beyond the walls of our own cultural and epistemological caverns.

As I said, nothing new, but I have great hope that we can drop those fears people!

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

New and interesting insights. Different and enlivened perspectives. Energy! Knowledge.

What is your spirit animal?

Wolf-Whale-Dragon-Tipuna; it’s spirit, there are no bounds.