In five words, describe your place in the sector.
Actual job role: Lead Exhibition Curator, Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa.
What first drew you to the sector i.e. Do you have a particular memory of a moment that got you hooked?
My tertiary studies certainly led me into this field. I was lucky to find employment in the arts sector as a new graduate and haven’t looked back. But it’s the potential of art, and museums institutions, to change lives that keeps me here.
What challenges have you faced in your career so far?
The transition into a senior leadership role has been an interesting one - and really fast too. As both an artist and curator, I essentially made the decision to become a full-time curator. Compiled with the recent closure of our museum, it has made for a huge learning curve in my career.
However, one of the most important and self-reflexive challenges was accepting the responsibility that comes with being an indigenous curator. Irrespective of your job title or a wider institutional kaupapa, you are responsible for carrying the values and priorities of your community with you. Being an indigenous curator requires a much larger commitment to activate the many role reversals needed to overturn systemic inequities embedded within museum institutions. We’re talking about a commitment in all spectrums; working hours, working off the clock, a time span of years, being met with resistance along the way... And that can be daunting.
As a young curator, and often the only person of colour in an institution, I’ve been privy to tensions and disagreements, which have certainly shaped my kaupapa but also made me mentally tough. One thing that keeps me going is an article that was shared with me by a senior Pacific curator, which was a crucial reminder of how privileged we are to be curators. Essentially it said (and I’m paraphrasing) that if you’re going to take a ‘seat at the table’ you’d better be prepared to use your voice, influence and resources for the betterment of our people. If not, get out of the way so that someone else can do it.
Has anything or anyone in particular provided you with support?
My family and partner are the best support. I’m pretty shitty at small talk so I try not to ‘network’ and instead do my best to create authentic professional relationships based on mutual respect. There is a whole network of Pacific curators who I admire and earlier this year I was fortunate enough to collaborate with some of them to produce Curating for the Contemporary Pacific: 95 theses. Alongside this I have my art whanau who are readily armed with sound advice and always keen for a w(h)ine.
What do you think people at your own level (emerging etc) bring to the sector?
I think people like me who dually play both an artist and curator role bring many contributive qualities. Above all, we understand the importance of privileging the artist’s voice and vision.
What is a positive change you would like to see in the sector?
More action, less ranting, especially when it comes to curating and indigenous self-determination. I’m not about critiquing from the sidelines as it undoes the work of indigenous curators on the front lines of institutions who are / have been working to decolonize museums from the inside out. Your work should always speak for you.
What is your karaoke song?
Bon Jovi, Living on a prayer. Anytime, anywhere.