A full week since our last day of Kaitiaki hui and I’m still digesting the massive amount of learning I got from the Museums Aotearoa conference and Kāhui Kaitiaki hui. A week of listening to energising, eye-opening, and emotional (there were tears whānau, so many tears) kōrero as well as meeting a whole bunch of new people and spending time with one of the greatest (Glin! Glinnn! Glenn Iseger-Pilkington!) ever. As I’m in the come down period, and grasping at the remains of the week, here are some of my major takeaways and things we can build on (most of which will be informed by the talks I heard).
1. ‘It’s not our job to make you see us’
This is something that Glenn said in his keynote on the Tuesday morning where he talked about his life as a Wadjarri, Nhanda, Nyoongar, Dutch and Scottish man who has worked in the cultural sector for 15 years. Glenn has been a part of numerous projects over these years and still encounters the same kind of issues he was facing when he entered: being respected on equal footing. Carrying the emotional labour of this fight should not rest on indigenous, or other minorities, shoulders and this is something I will carry with me.
On a similar note, I found this recent article by Nadine Millar (whose writing I have enjoyed for a while now) very enlightening. Even as someone who thinks about expanding diverse spaces on a daily basis, this was a perspective I hadn’t yet thought about. Give us a home game dammit.
2. ‘I was brought up with a sense of excellence, integrity, and mana Māori’
Ngahuia Te Awekotuku said this during her Wednesday morning session where she talked about how her upbringing in Ohinemutu shaped who she was. There was so much to take in from her talk, not least of all watching her chart the landscape of her career and see how, despairingly, so many things have not changed. One thing that was gratifying was thinking about how we are using the conference as a platform to challenge the sector to ‘see us’.
A related article is this from Tina Makereti, it is an abridged version of her Poutokomanawa lecture that she delivered as part of Auckland Writer’s Festival. The statistics are around who gets published in Aotearoa are demoralising and I absolutely commend her for bringing this conversation to the fore.
3. ‘Have you heard of teatoweltanga?’
This was brought up in the panel on tikanga in museums by my manager Dr Wayne Ngata and for me it speaks to the work we need to undertake outside of our institutions to ensure that our practice is robust. It also makes me reflect on the sheer amount of work that this entails but is also a reminder that this outside work is part of the reason why we joined the sector in the first place. Also, the kitchen is probably the funnest part on the marae, don’t even try and @ me on that.
On a similar note is this presentation from Kimberly Drew of the Black Contemporary Art tumblr and currently the The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Social Media Manager. Kimberly talks about what has driven her and in doing so talks about the spaces that we carve out when we can’t find ones that reflect our needs (haaaai Tusk!), by doing so we are able to bring people with us. It’s a huge amount of mahi but, fucking hell, it is worth it.
4. Te Whānau o Kāhui Kaitiaki
I’ve had the absolute privilege of being a part of Kāhui Kaitiaki, the network for Māori working in the GLAM sector, since 2013 when I assisted in a project as part of my masters. Kāhui Kaitiaki, and some of the people in particular, have helped me find a sense of purpose within this sector. This sector can be tough, it can ask a lot of you and turn us against each other, but being a part of Kāhui Kaitiaki has always strengthened me. This year we had a lot of people present who talked about how they are disconnected from their roots and how our hui, and the wider sector, can help them reconnect. That is for me is huge, and I believe it is a huge reason why we work in these spaces in the first place: they connect us to one another and to our whakapapa. Which reminds me of another thing that Glenn said, 'sometimes trying to find our culture is more painful than never having it in the first place.'
To completely down buzz that (aroha mai), this is one of the saddest videos I’ve seen recently. You want to see the devastating effects of colonization? Here they are: no reo, huge gang presence, a lonely paepae. Ka aroha ki a rātou.
5. Say sorry
Glenn’s final kōrero was on the last day of the hui which was coincidentally Sorry Day in Australia. Drawing on that he framed his kōrero to be about us being able to take it easy on ourselves, not beat ourselves up not achieving everything or being able to respond to everyone and everything immediately. Fuck, it was only 30 years ago that our roles barely even existed.
On that note, have a great long weekend. Take care of yourselves whānau.
Today’s song is brought to you by Aaradhna and how much she killed it last night at the Pacific Music Awards: