Ngārino Ellis

Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Porou

She is a lecturer in the Department of Art History at the University of Auckland. She has graduated with MA (Hons) and LLB FRSA and is currently completing a PhD entitled: "A Whakapapa of Tradition: Ngāti Porou Carving 1830-1930".

Since 1997 I have been working in the field of Māori art history. This area encompasses Māori art, architecture and culture from c800 to the present day, and includes both marae and gallery based practices. Within this field, I have concentrated primarily on pre-1900 art, especially tribal carving traditions, decorated churches and moko.

The focus of my PhD (2012) was the Iwirakau Carving School of the East Coast from 1830-1930. This has just been published (2016) by Auckland University Press as A Whakapapa of Tradition. A Century of Ngāti Porou Carving 1830-1930 with new photography by Natalie Robertson (AUT). An interview about this with Wallace Chapman (20.03.2016) can be heard here. And a story in Te Wiwi Nati can be read here. Our book has just been longlisted for the Ockham Book Awards 2017 in the section 'Illustrated Non-Fiction' (announced 22.11.16) which we are just so excited about.

In 2013 I began a three-year Marsden-funded project with other principal investigators Deidre Brown and Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (both NICAI) entitled "Toi Te Mana. A History of Indigenous Art from Aotearoa New Zealand". This seeks to write the first comprehensive history of Māori art and investigate the relationships, continuities and commonalities between the art of the ancestors and their descendants using specially-developed art history and Kaupapa Māori methodologies. In 2016-7 we are focused on writing up our findings. For more see here: I'll be talking about this project at the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand annual conference in Canberra in December 2016.

Indigenous biography is also a current research interest, and I have submitted a manuscript entitled "Te Ao Hurihuri o nga Taonga Tuku Iho. The Evolving Worlds of our Ancestral Treasures" for a Special Indigenous Issue of the University of Hawai'i based journal Biography. Here I think through ideas of biography in relation to Māori art, specifically through four case studies, and how this might affect wider understandings of indigenous biography on a global landscape. These ideas are part of preliminary ongoing research focused on the life and work of 20th Century Master Carvers Pine and Hone Taiapa (Ngāti Porou).

From my teaching of Art Crime, I have become interested in New Zealand's history of this. Recently I have discussed the history of art theft within Maori culture (see chapter in The Art Crime Handbook, 2016) and am keen to foster national interest in this field. To this end in 2015 I became a founding trustee of the Art Crime Research Trust. The Trust's main aim is to host annual symposia in this field. Our first one was in 2015 with over 80 attending. In 2016 we are holding our second Symposium at the City Gallery on Sat 15 Oct. A link to the Symposium webpage is here:

Other recent projects focus have focused on moko signatures ('Ki to ringa ki nga rakau a te Pakeha? Drawings and Signatures of Moko by Māori in the early 19th century,’ Read it here:;dn=581023126379058;res=IELNZC) and Maori whare whakairo (meeting houses) overseas ('Maori Meeting Houses Overseas,' Rauru. Masterpiece of the Māori published with volumes in Māori, German and English by Hamburg Museum (2012).

In my role as Coordinator of the Museums and Cultural Heritage programme I have been examining different approaches to the world of museums. In particular I have been promoting the idea of writing and teaching about this field using only indigenous sources which has been very exciting for me as an indigenous scholar. In 2016 we are welcoming 18 students into the Programme. More information about the Programme and its new 18-month Master's Programme can be found here:"

Biographical sources

  • “Ngārino Ellis.”
  • “Ngārino Ellis.” 2 December 2016


  • "Sir Apirana Ngata and the School of Māori Arts." Art New Zealand 89 (1998/1999): 58-61, 86.
  • "Restoring Spirits: The Auckland Museum’s Māori Collection." Art New Zealand 97 (2000/2001): 92-94.
  • Purangiaho: Seeing Clearly: Casting Light on the Legacy of Tradition in Contemporary Māori Art. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, c2001.
  • Exhibition curator Ngahiraka Mason; guest co-curator Ngārino Ellis; Catalogue editors, Ngahiraka Mason and Mary Kisler.
  • Pacific Rim: Te Pae o te Moananui a Kiwa: An Exhibition by the New Zealand Contemporary Medallion Group. Warkworth, N.Z.: New Zealand Contemporary Medallion Group, c2001.
  • Curator Fatu Feu’u. Essay by Ngārino Ellis.
  • Te Ata: Māori Art from the East Coast, New Zealand. Ed. Witi Ihimaera and Ngārino Ellis. Afterword by Katerina Te Hei Koko Mataira. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 2002.
  • Te Puna: Māori Art From Northland. Ed. Deidre Brown and Ngārino Ellis. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 2007.
  • "Pan-Pacific connections : tracing the past across the waves." Mitteilungen aus dem Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg, n.F., Bd. 44 (2012): 64-73.
  • "'No hea koe? - Woher kommst Du?' : Māori-Versammlungshäuser in Übersee." Mitteilungen aus dem Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg, n.F., Bd. 43 (2012): 436-453.
  • "'No hea koe? - where are you from?' : Māori meeting houses overseas." Mitteilungen aus dem Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg, n.F., Bd. 44 (2012): 418-435.
  • "Ki tō ringa ki ngā rākau ā te pākehā? : drawings and signatures of moko by māori in the early 19th century." The journal of the Polynesian Society 123.1 (2014): 29-66.
  • Robert Ellis. Auckland, N.Z.: Ron Sang Publications, 2014.
  • Co-authors Robert Ellis, Hamish Keith, Elizabeth Ellis and Hana Ellis.
  • Does Māori art history matter? Wellington, N.Z.: Art history, School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, 2014.
  • Co-authors Deidre Brown and Jonathan Mané-Wheoki.
  • "Ki to ringa ki nga rakau a te Pakeha?: Drawings and signatures of Moko by Maori in the early 19th century." Ngarino Ellis Affiliation. The Journal of the Polynesian Society 123.1 (Mar 2014): 29-66.
  • A whakapapa of tradition : one hundred years of Ngti porou carving, 1830-1930. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland University Press, 2014.
  • Other

  • Brown, Deidre. "Books: Māori Art Today." Art New Zealand 107 (2003): 93-94.
  • Reviews

  • "Reviews." Rev. of Ruatepupuke: A Māori Meeting House, by Arapata Hakiwai and John Terrell. Journal of the Polynesian Society 109.3 (2000): 318-320.
  • "Reviews." Rev. of Colonial Photography and Exhibitions: Representations of the ‘Native’ People and the Making of European Identities, by Anne Maxwell. Journal of the Polynesian Society 109.3 (2000): 325-327.
  • "Northern Light: Wellington, Sunny Side Up." Rev. of Tai Tokerau Whakairo Rakau: Northland Māori Wood Carving, by Deidre Brown. Rev. of Why Go to the Riviera: Images of Wellington, by Peter Shaw. Architecture New Zealand 6 (2003): 105-106.
  • Reviewed by Ngārino Ellis and John Walsh.
  • "The Imperative of the Image." Rev. of New Zealand Painting: A Concise History, by Michael Dunn. Rev. of Tai Tokerau Whakairo Rakau, by Deidre Brown. Art New Zealand 109 (2003): 95-98.
  • Reviewed by Damian Skinner and Ngārino Ellis.
  • "Te Hei Tiki: Between Tradition and Modernity." Rev. of "Te Hei Tiki" exhibition curated by Ngahiraka Mason and Jane Davidson. Art New Zealand 117 (2005/ 2006): 47-51.
  • "The Bountiful and Beautiful Bush." Rev. of the exhibition "Pirirakau (Bush Beautiful) by Nigel Borell. Art New Zealand 123 (Win 2007). 67-69.
  • "Book Reviews." Rev. of "Group Architects." And "Whare Karakia", by Richard Alfred Sundt. Architecture New Zealand 6 (2010): 83-84.
  • Reviews by John Walsh and Ngārino Ellis.
  • "Lisa Reihana: In pursuit of venus (infected)." Ngarino Ellis Affiliation. Artlink 35.2 (Jun 2015): 91.
  • Review of Lisa Reihana: In pursuit of venus (infected), by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, 2 May - 30 August 2015.
  • Theses

  • "A whakapapa of tradition : Iwirakau carving 1830-1930." PhD, University of Auckland, 2012.


  • "Ta Moko Comes Under the Spotlight." Te Karere News: National Māori Community Newspaper Feb. 2003: 3.
  • "Hau Te Ana Nui o Tangaroa." Mana: The Māori News Magazine for All New Zealanders 95 (2010): 46.
  • Reviews

    Purangiaho: Seeing Clearly.
  • Brown, Deidre. "Affirming A Legacy." Rev. of "Purangiaho: Seeing Clearly", curated by Ngahiraka Mason, Ngarino Ellis and Kahutoi Te Kanawa. Art New Zealand 102 (2002): 46-49, 87.