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: http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/2012/10/25/brown/. 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: https://artcrime.nz/symposium-2016/
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: http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;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: http://www.arts.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/subjects-and-courses/museums-and-cultural-heritage.html"
- “Ngārino Ellis.” http://artsfaculty.auckland.ac.nz/staff/?UPI=nell006
“Ngārino Ellis.” http://www.arts.auckland.ac.nz/people/nell006 2 December 2016