Labour History

Te Upoko o Mata’oho(Mangere Mountain): The Performative Tensions of a Living Museum

Labour History (2010), 99, (1), 55–70.


The development of an education centre in the early 1980s as a living museum at Mangere, South Auckland, Aotearoa (New Zealand), began with the purpose of enabling members of the local tribal group, or iwi, to tell their own stories about work, being and colonisation. It was to reflect their ongoing struggle to be able to live and work as recognised as iwi, to talk and show, in a living form, how their ancestors grew crops, lived and sustained family relationships, whanaungatanga. The story of the living museum shows how their important beliefs, their tikanga, and their rights under the Treaty of Waitangi create tensions for local government policy and the civic development of Auckland. The market-based approaches and procedures of local government in the twenty-first century do not readily accommodate collective ways and Maori process. This paper examines the ways that this community volunteer-based organisation, grounded in principles of reciprocity and collectivity, has been shaped, through performative requirements, as a market-modelled organisation.

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1.According to local elder,Maurice Wilson(personal communication, April2010), Te Upoko o Mata’oho, meaning the sacred head ofMata’oho, is their name which denotes the sacredness of the mountain. Other names used by government officials and local people includeTe Pane o Mata’oho(the head of Mata’oho) andTe Maunga o Mata’oho(Mata’oho’s Mountain). Google Scholar

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Author details

Jesson, Joce