journal of museums aotearoa
Makereti: taking Māori to the world is a poignant title as it exemplifies the subject’s life. Margaret Thom, Makareti or Maggie Papakura as she was also known, was a tribal member of Tuhourangi. She lived and grew up with my great grandparents in Whakarewarewa, the small thermal village in Rotorua. Tourism was the village’s main economic base, as it still is today - more than 100 years later.
Makereti was a trailblazer in the tourism industry in New Zealand. She portrayed her life in the village in such a way that early travellers took great interest in Māori culture, in performing arts, artefacts and the lifestyles of Māori in a geothermal landscape. In due course she married, moved to England and studied at Oxford University. Sadly she died just before her MA dissertation was examined; she was buried (according to her wishes) in the English village where she lived, Oddington, Oxfordshire. Her grave is visited regularly by Māori resident in England. Reading the chapel’s visitor book I saw that many Māori travellers come to pay homage to one of our great ‘wahine toa’. Despite her later years spent overseas, this pioneering woman is no stranger to our tribe: she is survived by her direct descendants and remains a role model for many Māori who emigrated to England, those who have undertaken tertiary studies or chosen tourism careers. This beautifully produced book, with all the pictures, is itself another taonga that I consider precious – it will take an honoured place on mine and many family members’ book shelves for years to come.
In these times of rapid technological change, many Māori are ‘taking Māori to the world’. International travel, cyberspace, the internet, TV, iPods, mobile phones, even PlayStation gaming are all tools used to expand the Māori knowledge base and promote New Zealand’s indigenous culture. It is, after all, one of our nation’s points of difference in our increasingly global environment.
Makereti’s achievements are remarkable when you consider she was taking Māori to the world without even the most basic of today’s communication technology. The book highlights this and shows that Makereti utilised the technology of her time to communicate Māori culture. Many of the photographs show the carvings and artefacts she took on her travels and donated to museums around the world. The biography captures the essence of Makereti’s life and the many identities she embodied. The book is set out in chronological order of her life, beginning with a brief context of New Zealand’s early colonial history. The text merges with extensive illustration, mostly photographs of Makereti as a tour guide or with family members. The substantial acknowledgments list indicates the amount of research, support and endorsement required in putting this book together. It is encouraging to see that the research not only produced a book, but has been used for both an on-line and a gallery exhibition at the National Library. This provides a more comprehensive presentation of the research and exposes the material to a larger audience. The book complements recent literature on museum history, tourism development, Māori economic development, tribal histories and leadership in New Zealand.
A good museum example is Conal McCarthy’s book Exhibiting Māori- A History of Colonial Cultures of Display (2007). Exhibiting Māori offers a critical historical examination of how Māori culture was exhibited, while this biography of Makereti provides context and illuminates with real examples the lived experience for Makereti and her people in the first part of the 20th century.
The collection of photographs, particularly the souvenirs and tourism literature showing Makereti’s image, provide a good indication of tourism promotional material at that time and would be useful for museums studies and tourism students who are looking at historical interpretative and marketing material. The book portrays Makereti as a leader of her time, a role model for New Zealand and an entrepreneur who ‘made it’ overseas.
Author Paul Diamond has brought together a wellresearched biography with carefully chosen photographs of Makereti’s life. It is a timely contribution to New Zealand’s heritage tourism literature, highlighting the fact that New Zealand tourism has always competed hard to attract and engage international visitors in a global market.
The virtual exhibition, Makereti: taking Māori to the world, produced by the National Library, can be seen on their website: click here
Te Ara - Journal of Museums Aotearoa; Volume 32; Issue 1 & 2; December 2007
MAKERETI: TAKING MĀORI TO THE WORLD
LAST UPDATED: 28/06/2010