Maori Repatriation

Interviewer: Sam Walter (Interviewer, Ideas Lab)
Guest: Dr Eliot Bates, Te Arikirangi Mamaku
Recorded: 17/10/2013
Broadcast: 11/12/2013

Intro VO : Welcome to the Ideas Lab Predictor Podcast from the University of Birmingham. In each edition we hear from an expert in a different field, who gives us insider information on key trends, upcoming events, and what they think the near future holds.

[First Maori Song]

Sam: Today our podcast comes from the Bramall Music Building here at the University of Birmingham following a fascinating seminar surrounding the music of Maori tribe, the Tainui tribe, and we’re here today with Dr Eliot Bates who’s a Lecturer in Ethnomusicology and Popular Music Studies and Te Arikirangi Mamaku who is one of the singers tonight. Hello both. So, why don’t we just start by asking a bit about what the songs were about that you were singing today? 

Te Arikirangi: A number of the songs can be broken up into different genres really and they each reflect different stages of our musical history. The older type songs are laments that date back to the 17th and the 18th centuries, then we also covered off some more religious themed songs with the introduction of our Christianity into pre-colonial New Zealand, and then we also touched on some more modern songs as we incorporated different instruments such as pianos and guitars. 

Sam: And you’re here for repatriation aren’t you?

Te Arikirangi: Our delegation is made up of senior staff, so there’s a strategic Maudi co-leader for the National Museum of New Zealand, as well as two elders from what’s referred to as the Tainui tribal groups, who are actually a federation of tribes in the central region of the north island of New Zealand. Other than that we do represent different tribes of the Maori culture in New Zealand.   

Sam: Fantastic. Eliot, you do a lot of studying with ethnomusicology. Can you tell us a bit about repatriation?

Eliot: Repatriation in general is a sort of legacy of just the anthropological ethnomusicological encounters and medical encounters that people have had that often didn’t initially go with a full understanding and part of all parties is about what in fact was happening.  So a lot of objects or recordings or, in this case remains actually, remains of ancestors, actually get taken from original land but there's a lot of politics about, you know, as soon as we talk about repatriation we’re talking about the sort of inter-relation between maybe tribal politics, national politics, regional politics and trans-national because suddenly we have reciprocal agreements, maybe they get developed between the UK and between New Zealand but maybe in other places for example repatriation, you know, there’s certain road blocks that might exist. It’s a fairly new process that’s happening. From my understanding, the Maori have been very much at the forefront of this and other indigenous groups, indigenous peoples around the world; have had the opportunity to learn from seeing the effectiveness of the Maori experience of this. 

Te Arikirangi: We have been quite active in terms of repatriation. The National Museum, at Te Papa, have been carrying out the repatriation in its present form with the Repatriation Programme since 2003 and in 2003, that’s when we were actually officially mandated by the Government and also received the support from the collective tribes of New Zealand to carry out this work which focuses on scoping research and identifying international collections, both private and public, our ancestors that had been taken out of the country. But the work of repatriation has been going on with the Maudi community as far back as the 70s and the 60s, informally as well. And so there has been lots of work that’s occurred before our programme has actually picked this up. 

Eliot: What was the process whereby you decided that music would become part of the way in repatriation, maybe the ritual of repatriation if you will, I guess whether the discussions that transpired before this is a sort of model that you use for repatriation when you go elsewhere to do this as well. 

Te Arikirangi: In our culture music is a really central part for any of our cultural traditions. If we have a look at what’s referred to as our rituals of encounter when we encounter visitors or when we’re hosting people or we’re going into new regions, there are particular protocols that we carry out.  At the beginning there are three significant interactions that occur. There are prayers which can be both religious – Christian and secular – as well as ancient old – we had a range of Gods as opposed to just one God and so there are prayers that occur in our culture. Then another part of it is our oral traditions, which is speeches and the oral traditions where we acknowledge our ancestors, we acknowledge our ancestral mountains and how we kind of develop and communicate our sense of identity geographically to our tribes and also to our ancestral canoots. What always happens at the end of a speech, of a formal Maori speech as it’s accompanied by a song and the variety of songs, the range of songs can vary from old chants, old laments to quite melodic songs, and even on occasion war dances like the Hakka or the Maori war dance is quite common. 

Eliot: Have there also been efforts to do repatriation of sound archives and some of the earlier archive recordings that ethnic musicologists made about a hundred years ago, for example some of the things that are held in the Berlin archive, I was just curious if there was work going about that?

Te Arikirangi: I’m not too familiar with this area of repatriation but I’m sure that if there were situations like that we would be quite interested, not to actually repatriate them but to also scope and see what actually exists because like any other culture, aspects of our music, of our musical heritage that are disconnected from our contemporary culture, we are very interested in reconnecting and reconciling our pasts in those ways. 

Sam: Brilliant, well that’s a fantastic note to wrap up on. So thank you to Dr Eliot Bates and Te Arikirangi Mamaku and here’s another song to play us out. 

[Second Maori Song]

Outro VO : This podcast and others in the series are available on the Ideas Lab website: There's also information on the free support Ideas Lab has to offer to TV and radio producers, new media producers and journalists. The interviewer and producer for the Ideas Lab Predictor Podcast was Sam Walter.