Mishelle Muagututi'a

From our good mate Bridget Reweti

I first met Mish on the bus home from a Vic Uni Museum Studies 'soiree'. She was hilarious and it was one of the best bus rides ever. Later that year I ended up working at Ngā Taonga with her and she was my go to person - for laughs, singing and excellent advice. Mish has a depth of aroha which she tirelessly pours into her communities like Pacific Underground, Kava Club, and year after year she rallies the troops and showcases Pasifika film and filmmakers at the ever growing Siapo Cinema. She makes me and my friends feel valued, supported and inspired. What a tuakana!

Photograph courtesy of Linda T. Tanoai

Photograph courtesy of Linda T. Tanoai

In five words, describe your role in the sector. 

Timekeeper.  Researcher.  Advocate.  Scribe.  Connector. 

 What is it about the sector you love?

That’s funny Bridget how you reminded me how we met, that was fortuitous wasn’t it. I do find I have met a lot of my friends in random situations – usually laughter involved, although I’m not very funny.  Connections made through education, work, events or, other friends… hey, but it was fun to have you working with us, pity you had to move on, I miss you walking in and telling me about something outrageous or some creative win!  It’s a good thing here at work I’m surrounded by creatives - the people/archivists in this organisation, some quirkier than I and people in this sector who have made what I do an exciting and rewarding experience - I am driven by my peers that are an exemplar within an area who develop and manage varied and vast collections.

As a Documentation Archivist, I am privileged to work alongside unique archivists at Nga Taonga Sound & Vision within Aotearoa.   If my five words were too broad, basically I receive relevant non-moving materials into our collection in relation to Aotearoa's audio visual history (mainly film and television at the moment) and provide access. 

I've always had an interest in social history. To be able to reconnect people with their history through our audio visual collections is important to myself and others I work alongside (Documentation Archivist, Tracy White). Connected to our area of work, we have a small research facility where we can receive researchers.

I've also been fortunate to provide an alternative way I can provide access and connect people to moving images by working closely with our Outreach and Engagement team. For example, to organise an annual Pacific Film Festival with former colleague, Mark Sweeney; Connecting communities to a private screening for the descendants of Safune, Savai'i, Samoa - Moana With Sound (1926) documentary film, by Robert J Flaherty and Frances Flaherty – (one of my career highlights); a film symposium to connect Pasifika communities with artists and academics in response to popular culture and provide still images to support exhibitions.  It has been a collaboration of archivist, curators and event organisers in respect of each other’s specialist skills.

What have been some challenges in your career?

Challenges have been interesting and if I didn’t have that, I’d have to move on.  There are ways to get around these and how to improvise.  I have to accept that some projects cannot be completed overnight. 

There is the responsibility of being the only Pacific person within the audio visual archive at the moment, I try to respond to serve our Pacific Communities. However, this requires me to step out of my role as a Documentation Archivist, there are some connections that align with my role, but other requests take me outside of this. It’s not a whinge, it’s a fact.

Unfortunately, I don't really come across other Pacific heritage professionals specifically in my area of work, therefore I am fortunate I have the option to ask Sean Mallon, Grace Hutton and Nina Tonga who are just down the road from here, if I needed advice or, support.

What challenges can you see moving forward?

Communication is a great leveler and what you think is maybe a challenge is not really a hurdle but a development.

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

Be proactive and manage your time effectively, listen to others, don’t listen to others, don’t get too comfortable, enthusiasm and a passion for the sector.

What is your spirit animal?

Probably a cat. I’m pretty independent, indifferent, if anyone calls out my name I don’t answer, I eat a lot and would ideally like to sleep in the sun too.