Professor Deidre Brown (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu), head of the School of Architecture, University of Auckland, has been elected to the Academy of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. Dr Brown is one of 27 new Ngā Ahurei a Te Apārangi Fellows and Ngā Ahurei Honore a Te Apārangi Honorary Fellows to have achieved this honour.
Of the current 455 Royal Society Te Apārangi Fellows, she is the only one with a background in architecture and art history and is one of a growing group of distinguished Māori Fellows. As a founding researcher of Māori architectural history and design, her research has been used as a framework in the field of Māori architecture within Aotearoa and internationally.
Challenging earlier scholars who argued that the region’s woodcarving traditions died out with Pākehā arrival, Dr Brown discovered what were previously deemed as ‘lost’ collections of Māori art, leading to the repatriation of a significant taonga (Te Pahi medal), and enabling her hapū to return to their tūrangawaewae tribal lands.
An internationally-renowned scholar of Māori and Pacific art history, cultural property rights and Indigenous digital humanities, Dr Brown is one of the first researchers to develop scholarship and Kaupapa Māori methodology for investigating Indigenous digital culture. Throughout her research career, she has been committed to protecting Māori intellectual and cultural property rights in artistic and commercial sectors.
Among her written works is Māori Architecture: from fale to wharenui, the first book to chart the genesis and form of Indigenous buildings in Aotearoa New Zealand, providing deep insight into Māori-designed structures and spaces, and their evolution over time. Dr Brown has also co-authored Art in Oceania: a new history – a major comprehensive survey of cultural production for the region, supported by the Marsden Fund, which won the 2014 Art Book Prize for the best English language art or architecture book in the world.
The upcoming Toi Te Mana: a history of Indigenous art from Aotearoa New Zealand with Associate Professor Ngarino Ellis and the late Professor Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (also Marsden-funded), is a comprehensive account of the history of Māori art and architecture.
“My whānau and I are honoured and humbled by my election to the fellowship,” says Dr Brown. “It is recognition of the importance of Māori architectural research in our knowledge of the settlement and development of Aotearoa New Zealand through building and making.”
“I hope to bring to the Society my knowledge and experience of building and creative practice research, and Indigenous art and architectural history research, to assist in the Society’s mission to connect to, involve and assist diverse communities, professions and industries.”