Treasures left by our Ancestors (excerpt)


“Did I, as a child, walk through the Canterbury Museum and feel like I saw my ancestors looking back at me? Could my Māori ancestors only stand if crouched in anticipation to extinguish a species while the forest burned in the background? It was as if Māori had never been explorers who came to Aotearoa using a sophisticated system of navigation by the stars and ocean currents. That instead, they passively sat while, according to the accompanying display text, ‘The sea supplied an abundance of fish, marine mammals, shellfish and other foods’. So I ended up there crouched in front of the dioramas, trying to be a part of it, really looking. Not really looking like I belong, white passing, in sneakers.” - Ana Iti

Treasures Left by Our Ancestors responds to two permanent exhibitions at Canterbury Museum, New Zealand entitled Iwi Tawhito - Whenua Hou /Ancient People - New Land and Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho o Ngā Tupuna /The Treasures Left to us by our Ancestors. The video shows the artist crouching in front of the dioramas, positioning the body in response to constructed scenes, while museum visitors walk through the displays.

This work is discussed in an essay by Simon Palenski, 2018.