Conal McCarthy will present at the seminar in Indigenous Arts in Transition on Tuesday, February 22, at 6 pm. His talk is entitled “Indigenous Theories of Indigenous Arts in Transition: Art as Whakapapa (Genealogy) and Contemporary Taonga (Treasure) in Brett Graham’s Tai Tangata, Tai Moana.”

In the voluminous and contested literature on art theory and practice, much ink has been spilt analysing customary Native and tribal “arts,” and tracing the transition to modern and contemporary “Art” from a western perspective. Not as much attention has been paid to Indigenous concepts and frameworks for their own visual cultural heritage. In Aotearoa, New Zealand, debates in art history, anthropology, museum studies, and curatorial writing have circled around the changing forms of “Māori art”: from “traditional”/customary practices such as weaving and carving; to “Māori modernism”; to “contemporary Māori art.” This lecture considers two moments in this dynamic history. The first in the 1920s when Māori politician and intellectual Apriana Ngata led a strategic engagement with museums and fieldwork anthropology and developed a community-based arts and crafts movement through the revival of the arts and practices of the marae (communal meeting ground). The second is a century later, when Māori art historian, curator and arts administrator Anna Marie White curated a widely admired exhibition of the work of leading sculptor Brett Graham, Tai Tangata Tai Moana, at the Govett Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth in 2021. Both case studies reveal Indigenous ideas of arts in transition: in the first, whakapapa (genealogy, relatedness) is materialised across a range of visual culture: netting, lattice work, weaving, carving, and house building; and in the second, contemporary art is seen as taonga (ancestral treasures).


Professor Conal McCarthy is Director of the Museum & Heritage Studies programme at the Stout Research Centre, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. He has published widely on museum history, theory and practice, including the books Exhibiting Māori (2007), Museums and Maori (2011), and Museum Practice (2015), volume 2 of The International Handbooks of Museum Studies (Wiley Blackwell). In 2017 Conal was one of the authors of Collecting, Ordering, Governing: Anthropology, Museums, and Liberal Government (Duke University Press), and a co-editor of a volume of essays in memory of Māori art historian Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (Victoria University Press). In 2018 he published the history of Te Papa (Te Papa Press), and in 2019 Curatopia: Museums and the Future of Research (co-edited with Philipp Schorch, Manchester University Press). His next publication is a multi-authored book from a research project led by Professor Dame Anne Salmond: Hei taonga mō ngā uri whakatipu: The Dominion Museum Ethnological Expeditions 1919-23.


This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.