Pacific first for NZ’s national museum


A person of Pacific descent has been appointed to lead the Pacific section of New Zealand’s national museum for the first time.

Togialelei Dr Safua Akeli Amaama (R) talking with Te Papa colleague in collections storage.
Photo: Te Papa

Togialelei Dr Safua Akeli Ama’ama takes up the job at Te Papa Pacific and New Zealand Histories and Culture department after heading the Samoan Studies school at the University of Samoa.

She said she was looking to deepen relationships and create a bigger platform for the region’s cultures.

“I see this as a way for a balance across what different narratives there are. Having been in the region for a long time and being able to visit different islands, I’m really keen to reach the other nations and have those discussions and dialogues, and connections to collections.”

Te Papa’s chief executive Courtney Johnston said the appointment was a cause for celebration for the museum.

“We are delighted to appoint someone of Dr Akeli Amaama’s calibre to this crucial leadership role,” Ms Johnston said.

“Te Papa was lucky enough to have Dr Akeli Amaama as our curator of Pacific cultures for five years, and we are excited to welcome her back into the Te Papa whānau.”

Dr Akeli Amaama was a curator of Pacific cultures at Te Papa from 2008 to 2013.

Te Papa’s Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai said that Dr Akeli Amaama brought a fantastic range of experience to the role.

“As well as her experience in curation and research, Dr Akeli Amaama brings wide experience in collaborating with communities,” Dr Hakiwai said.

“She has exactly the kind of experience and leadership we need at Te Papa, as a museum where the principle of mana taonga – connecting treasures to their source communities – is at the heart of everything we do.”

Dr Akeli Amaama will retain her roles as an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Museum and Heritage Studies programme at Victoria University, and as an Associate Researcher for the Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Samoan siapo mamanu (tapa cloth) in the collection of Te Papa.

One of Togialelei’s favourite Te Papa pieces, a Samoan siapo mamanu (tapa cloth).
Photo: Te Papa



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