Extracts of a presentation given to the TransMare plenum in December 2023

On 11th December 2023, the TransMare Institute in Trier invited its members and research project to come together. With an evening programme, the institute presented ongoing research projects, new arriving researchers, and also invited the associated PhD researchers to briefly introduce their work within five minutes. With this blogpost, I share parts of my presentation with you.


Hello everybody, thank you or giving me the opportunity to introduce my research project to you. Before I begin, I would like to add that I stammer occasionally.

The title of the presentation Kidnapped Whalers and Destroyed Taverns is based on a case study from my research. In August 1839, the two American and British ambassadors in New Zealand reported the destruction of a pub by several whaling captains and their crew. The reason for this attack were two Brazilian sailors who were being held by the owner of the pub or were hiding from the captain in order to escape the harsh conditions on board. However, as the captain did not want to give them up, they wanted to state an example of them.

Whaling ships suffered from a chronic shortage of skilled labour, which meant that the captains needed all the manpower they could get and often had a very diverse crew. Incidents such as these form an important facet of my work when it comes to reconstructing the interactions in the context of the whaling industry in the Pacific.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, whale oil was a coveted resource to light street lamps and maintain the machinery of early industrialisation. (3) During this period, Quaker family businesses in the small harbour towns of Nantucket and New Bedford in the British colony and later USA dominated this industry, sending their whaling ships first to the Atlantic and increasingly to the Pacific from the 19th century onwards. They hunted and processed whales on their multi-year transoceanic voyages and interacted with Pacific Islanders such as in Tahiti or Hawaii as well as the Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand during stopovers.

My focus is on the Bay of Islands, which became an important stopover in the early 19th century and ultimately laid the foundation for the colonisation of the country by the British with the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. I argue here that whalers in the 19th century spent decades trying to transfer to the Pacific a socio-economic system that they had already successfully established in the Atlantic with the Native Americans and slaves in the 18th century.

In my research study, I want to analyze and reconstruct, if and how Maori seamen were integrated into the same working conditions in the whaling industry. In this regard, I also want to show the balance of power in the interaction spaces at the Bay of Islands and to show the transoceanic transfer process of the whalers. In this way, I combine maritime history with settler colonial studies

An unusual sunrise: Maori Art and Culture at the Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin – article of 2014

In this blogpost, I have summarized an article of the german “Tagesspiegel” of 19.11.2014, which was written by Nicola Kuhn about the exhibtion of the Maori paintings of Gottfried Lindauer.1

In the early hours of a grey November day, an extraordinary ceremony began at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Led by Patu Hohepa, a Maori kaumatua, an impressive press conference launched a spectacular exhibition.

The exhibition features portraits of Maori leaders by Gottfried Lindauer, a painter largely unknown in our art history. Originally from Pilsen in the Czech Republic, Lindauer emigrated to New Zealand in the 19th century and dedicated himself to portraying the indigenous people of what was then an endangered culture.

His detailed and respectful depictions of Maori culture have a vibrancy and dignity that is still impressive 150 years later. Lindauer’s respectful portrayal won the respect of the Maori, who commissioned him to paint portraits of themselves and their ancestors.

In the Alte Nationalgalerie, two worlds collide, a collision that encourages us to change our perspective and see the connection between cultures. The exhibition offers a new perspective on Aotearoa New Zealand’s indigenous culture and shows how interconnected our world is.

The exhibition also brings some of the artist’s spirit back to Europe. It is a moving moment that underlines both the importance of artistic heritage and the deep spiritual connection between Maori and their ancestors.

The Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin is hosting this exhibition as a tribute to Maori culture and as a memorial to an artist who captured this culture in his paintings. A fascinating glimpse into a world that inspires us to think differently and reminds us that art knows no boundaries.

  1. Maori-Porträts in der Alten Nationalgalerie, in: Tagesspiegel, https://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/der-tatowierte-geist-8113012.html, [Last Access: 11.12.2023] []

Aotearoa New Zealands election 2023

In view of the upcoming elections of in Aotearoa New Zealand, the interpreter has published a little comment of the current political situation.1 This blogpost offers a little summary of it.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s 2023 election is shaping up to be one of the most divisive in recent memory, with significant policy differences between the incumbent Labour Party and the opposition National Party. Key issues at stake range from economic policy and fiscal responsibility to Māori rights and cultural identity, creating a uniquely polarised political landscape.

Economic policy clash

Under the banner of ‘In it for you’, Labour has proposed a broad agenda, including extending free early childhood education to two-year-olds, providing financial benefits to working families and offering free dental care to those under 30. While these policies appeal to many, they come at a significant economic cost. Aotearoa New Zealand’s national debt has risen from $5 billion to over $100 billion in the last four years under Labour.

In contrast, the National Party’s ‘Let’s get New Zealand back on track’ campaign promises to cut government spending, cancel some of Labour’s projects, support the agricultural sector, encourage private enterprise and tackle rising gang violence. Their vision includes disciplined spending, lower taxes, less debt and robust fiscal buffers to withstand future economic shocks.

Co-governance controversy

Co-governance has emerged as one of the most divisive issues in this election. National’s Christopher Luxon is strongly opposed to co-governance, while some of Labour’s coalition partners, such as the Greens and the Māori Party, favour a statutory power-sharing arrangement that would give them a permanent seat in government. This proposal challenges democratic norms and is seen by some as a potential Māori takeover. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ vague alternative of ‘mahi tahi’ or working together has failed to reassure most voters, according to the polling data.

Cultural and linguistic debates

The possible renaming of New Zealand to ‘Aotearoa’ has become another contentious issue. Activists and even some television presenters have embraced the use of Aotearoa, while others oppose the change, arguing that it is not racist to use “New Zealand”. This debate highlights deep cultural and identity divisions within Aotearoa New Zealand society.

Reparations and deadlines

National’s Luxon has set a deadline of 2030 to resolve long-standing Māori community claims for reparations for past wrongs. Despite efforts to resolve these claims, they continue to pile up, with billions of dollars at stake. The issue of reparations remains complex and divisive.

Election dynamics

In the final week of the campaign, polls show National leading with 35.8% support, with Labour trailing on 26.8%. The Green Party, with just over 12%, and the Māori Party, with 2.8%, have significant influence. In addition, Aotearoa New Zealand First’s Winston Peters, a political figure, could once again determine the balance of power with his party’s 5.7% support, potentially forcing National into a coalition arrangement.


Aotearoa New Zealand’s 2023 election is a unique and divisive political moment, characterised by stark policy differences, deep-seated ideological clashes and cultural debates. The nation is at a crossroads, with voters facing critical choices about economic direction, Māori rights, cultural identity and the future of their political landscape. The outcome of the election will shape Aotearoa New Zealand’s trajectory for years to come, reflecting the diverse views and values of its citizens.

  1. Parker Selwyn: New Zealand elections: Working together or co-governance?, in: The Interpreter, 11.10.2023, https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/new-zealand-elections-working-together-or-co-governance, Last Access: 12.10.2023. []

Summary of the article: “Archivbericht Neuseeland” – 2009

Almost 15 years ago, in 2009, the german archive journal “Archiv, Theorie & Praxis – Zeitschrift für Archivwesen” of North-Rhine Westphalia had published a general overview and introduction of the Aotearoa New Zealand archive system. You can find the article as a .pdf here under this URL online in german language.1

Heusterberg, Babette: Archivbericht Neuseeland, in: Archiv, Theorie & Praxis – Landesverband NRW, 62, 2, 2009, p. 176-182.

With this blogpost, I would like to offer you a brief summary in English language of the article: Archives are an essential part of preserving and providing access to historical records and cultural heritage. The authors explores the archival landscape in Aotearoa New Zealand, with a particular focus on the National Archives /Te Rua Mahara o te Kawanatanga. The article provides an overview of the history of archives in New Zealand, the current state of archives, and the various initiatives that Archives New Zealand has undertaken to improve its services and increase access to its collections.

The history of archives in New Zealand:

The history of archives in New Zealand dates back to the early colonial period, when the first government records were created. However, it was not until the late 19th century that a formal archival system was established. The National Archives of New Zealand was started in 1957 and changed to Archives Aotearoa New Zealand in 2003.

Current state of archives in Aotearoa New Zealand:

The archives in Aotearoa New Zealand are classified into three primary categories, namely government archives, private archives, and community archives. Archives New Zealand is responsible for preserving and providing access to the records of the New Zealand Government and other records of national importance. Then the author describes the various functions of Archives Aotearoa New Zealand which includes appraisal, acquisition, preservation, and access. The article also discusses the obstacles faced by Archives Aotearoa New Zealand, including the limited resources and the necessity to balance access with privacy concerns.

Archives New Zealand initiatives:

Archives Aotearoa New Zealand has undertaken numerous initiatives recently to improve its services and increase access to its collections. These initiatives include the digitisation of records, the development of online finding aids and the creation of partnerships with other institutions. The article also discusses the various outreach programmes that Archives New Zealand has developed to engage with the wider community, such as school programmes and public exhibitions.

Digitisation of records:

Archives Aotearoa New Zealand has undertaken a significant digitisation programme to make its collections more accessible to researchers and the public. The digitisation programme includes the scanning of records, the creation of digital finding aids and the development of online databases. The article notes that while digitisation has many benefits, it also presents challenges, such as the need to ensure the long-term preservation of digital records.

Online finding aids:

Archives Aotearoa New Zealand has developed a range of online finding aids to help researchers navigate its collections. These finding aids include online catalogues, indexes, and guides to specific collections. The article notes that these finding aids have greatly improved access to Archives Aotearoa New Zealand’s collections, but there is still work to be done to ensure that they are comprehensive and up to date.

Partnerships with other institutions:

Archives Aotearoa New Zealand has developed partnerships with other institutions to increase access to its collections and promote the importance of archives. These partnerships include working with museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions. The article notes that these partnerships have been successful in raising awareness of archives and creating new opportunities for research and engagement with the wider community.

Outreach programmes:

Archives Aotearoa New Zealand has developed a range of outreach programmes to engage with the wider community and promote the importance of archives. These programmes include school programmes, public exhibitions and online resources. The article notes that these outreach programmes have been successful in raising awareness of archives and creating new opportunities for engagement with the wider community.

Challenges and future for archives in Aotearoa New Zealand:

Despite the many initiatives undertaken by Archives New Zealand, there are still challenges that need to be addressed to ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility of New Zealand’s documentary heritage. These challenges include limited resources, the need to balance access with privacy concerns, and the need to ensure the long-term preservation of digital records. The article concludes by calling for continued investment in archives and greater collaboration between archives and other cultural institutions to ensure that Aotearoa New Zealand’s documentary heritage is preserved and made accessible to future generations.

  1. Heusterberg, Babette: Archivbericht Neuseeland, in: Archiv, Theorie & Praxis – Landesverband NRW, 62, 2, 2009, p. 176-182. []

Linden-Museum in Stuttgart

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the LindenMuseum in Stuttgart – Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde. Reason of my visit were two exhibitions:

The temporal LindenLab 3 exhibition:”Across Time, Place and People
Whakawhānaungatanga: Connecting taonga Māori

Between December 2022 and June 2023, this collection explores the collection of almost 150 Māori treasures from Aotearoa New Zealand. These treasures, including clothing, jewelry, weapons, carvings, and a carved house, have diverse origins and were acquired through gifts, purchases, and exchanges. Even though they have limited knowledge about their genealogy and history, they have great significance for Māori today. LindenLAB 3, a project with Māori researchers and experts, wants to make new connections and meaning by finding out where these taonga came from and showing how important they are in culture through creative presentations. The exhibit emphasizes the dynamic nature of the collection and its connections to individuals, neighborhood groups, educational institutions, and nations.

The Museum explains that the objects have arrived Stuttgart by somehow “winding paths”: “they were gifts from European travellers, acquired by patrons for the museum or taken over from other collections through exchange or purchase. Little or nothing is known about their whakapapa (genealogy) – the names of their makers, their former owners and their history in Aotearoa New Zealand. Yet the taonga are important and full of meaning for Māori today.”1

By examining historical and contemporary taonga Māori, the project show connections that link the collection to individuals, local communities, institutions, and nations. The focus is on presenting these relationships in a way that respects the cultural meanings, aesthetics, and artistic expressions of the objects. Each contributor brings their own perspective to the selected assemblages, emphasizing the ever-evolving dynamics of the living collection.

The LindenLab partners from Atoearoa New Zealand include:

Ngarino Ellis (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou) is an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Auckland and author of A Whakapapa of Tradition: 100 years of Ngāti Porou carving, 1830-1930 (2016). She has led and coordinated the LindenLAB 3 partners since the project’s start.

Dougal Austin (Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu, Waitaha) is curator of the Māori collections at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Wellington and author of Te Hei Tiki: an enduring treasure in a cultural continuum (2019).

Awhina Tamarapa (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Ruanui) worked as a curator at Te Papa Museum and is a Teaching Fellow for the Museum and Heritage Studies program at Victoria University Wellington where she is also completing her PhD. She is the editor and author of Whatu Kākahu / Māori Cloaks (2011).

Justine Treadwell is a PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Auckland. Her research focuses on 18th century Māori cloaks held in European collections. Previously she has worked at Auckland Museum on the storage of the Māori textile collection.

The permanent “Oceania” Collection:

The carefully curated collection features over 600 objects, ranging from ancient to contemporary, shedding light on the traditions, beliefs, and lifestyles of Oceania’s diverse communities. Spanning across the vast Pacific Ocean, Oceania encompasses an incredible diversity of cultures, each with its own unique heritage. The Linden Museum’s “Ozeanien” exhibition showcases this richness, offering visitors a glimpse into the customs, art, and spirituality of various Pacific Island groups, including Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia.

From ceremonial masks adorned with intricate carvings to intricately woven textiles and navigational tools, every artifact in the exhibition carries deep cultural significance. Each piece tells a story, illustrating the Pacific Islanders’ connection to their environment, ancestors, and mythologies. Through these artifacts, visitors gain a deeper appreciation for the craftsmanship and artistic expression that characterizes Oceania’s cultural tradition.

  1. LindenLab 3 in: LindenMuseum Stuttgart, https://www.lindenmuseum.de/en/see/exhibitions/translate-to-englisch-lindenlab-3-across-time-place-and-people, [last Access: 14.6.2023] []
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