Hei Tiki - Amber Frizzel

Hi, My name is Amber Frizzell, I am in Sixth Form at Oxford Spires Academy and I am from New Zealand. For this Pitt Rivers project, my search for an object that really interested me began with a beautiful painting I found in the museum. The oil painting is of Ngairo Rakai Hikuroa who was chief of Ngatu Kahungunu Wairarapa. I have always been interested in and identified with New Zealand culture whether its settler or Māori culture. This initial inspiration led me on to think about some of the New Zealand items I have in my home that are interesting to me. It was at that point that I knew that the tiki would be my object as it was such a familiar object in my life. Here are some of the photos of tikis that are around my house (Fig 3&4).



nairo rakai hikuroa

 Figure 1Gottfried Lindaeur, Portrait of Ngairo Rakai Hikuroa, courtesy of Pitt Rivers Museum, PRM000046057



During the process for making this podcast, I used lots of resources to get a deeper understanding of what a hei tiki is, what the supposed symbolism is and why it is important to the indigenous people of New Zealand. What was interesting to find out was that ever since New Zealand was colonised, the tiki has been used as a symbol to sell souvenirs to tourists and it has become increasingly associated with general New Zealand identity even though the tiki is specifically a Māori symbol. I interviewed my dad to see if he agreed with this and he absolutely did – even going as far to say that the tiki has been used to sell ice-creams!

To create our podcasts, we took part in four workshops over a month for research and using information provided by the Pitt River Museum. I enjoyed this aspect of the creation process – finding hidden objects within the museum and collecting as much information as I could about my choice of object as well as the actual recording of the podcast which I did on the last of the four workshops.

‘a huge cultural change has happened in the past 50 years or so on how society views indigenous people and their rights but I also believe that there is still far to go for justice.’



I think that one of the things that was interesting to reflect on, was that I have no Māori ancestry and yet I am speaking about the indigenous people of New Zealand, their culture, their beliefs and their traditions as if it were my own. It is crucial to keep respectful and know that I am not Māori. I spoke to my father about this respect, and he believes that there has been such a global cultural change and understanding for indigenous peoples’ rights and the intellect of their own cultures and he thinks I have a better understanding and respect of this than he did when he was 16. I would also agree that a huge cultural change has happened in the past 50 years or so on how society views indigenous people and their rights but I also believe that there is still far to go for justice.

I also think it is important to understand that all my findings are based on books and online resources and not from my own experience. I think in some ways this restricted my understanding of what a tiki is because it is such a spiritual object that I will never truly understand its symbolism and meaning for it has somewhat been lost over time. I recognise that I still feel connected to New Zealand through my father even though he has not lived there for 40 years.

hei tiki blog

Figure 2 Three Hei Tiki, nephrite, New Zealand, Pitt Rivers Museum, courtesy PPRM (PRM000075977)

I think this project has made me appreciate the beauty of artefacts from the past and the stories behind them – especially after Marenka gave a brief tour and insight to some of the objects they have displayed in the museum. I believe that by having a tour guide, it makes the museum a lot more interactive and accessible for people. It was also interesting to know that the museum is organised by theme rather than place or time and I liked this style of ordering, because it meant that you could see the variations of beadwork or boat-making across the world.