Public History Talk: Dr Rachel Buchanan, Te Motunui Epa – Making history from the underground

Monday 15 May 2023, 6pm to 7:30pm

Taiwhanga Kauhau — Auditorium, (lower ground) National Library Wellington. Entrance on Aitken Street or on Zoom.

Join author Dr Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Ātiawa) in this Public History Talk about the astonishing kōrero of Te Motunui Epa. After 150 years hidden in a swamp, the carved panels travelled across the world and changed practices, understanding and international law on the protection and repatriation of stolen cultural treasures.

The re-emergence of taonga

For more than 150 years, five carved panels that once formed the back wall of a pātaka, slept in a small swamp just north of Waitara. The carvings, which uri of Taranaki now call Te Motunui Epa, emerged from their long sleep in 1971. Their re-emergence set off an extraordinary chain of events that would take them around the world and back again.

In this talk, Dr Rachel Buchanan will discuss how unearthing the government records created by the carvings has changed the way she works as a historian. It has taken her closer to the power of the underground, and the sovereignty that exists undiminished beneath our feet.

Dr Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Ātiawa) is the author of three books that explore Taranaki histories, including the invasion of Parihaka. Her new book, Te Motunui Epa (BWB Books, 2022), is shortlisted for the 2023 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in the illustrated non-fiction category. Along with Hana Buchanan and Debbie Broughton, Rachel is also member of Te Aro Pā poets. A former journalist, Rachel has also documented the collapse of newspapers in the history-memoir, Stop Press: the last days of newspapers.

More information can be found here.