Tungia Dorothea Baker

Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa, Te Āti Awa, Te Arawa

1939 - 2005

Tungia Baker was born in Otaki and educated at Queen Victoria School for Māori Girls in Auckland. In 1958 she went to West Bend, Wisconsin, on an American Field Service Scholarship. When she returned to New Zealand she worked for the Ministry of Works and later went to university. Tungia worked for an employment agency and completed courses at Wellington Polytechnic. She worked for an advertising agency, raised funds for Queen Victoria School, and was employed as advertising manager for Technical Publications. In 1970 Tungia became New Zealand’s representative for the American Field Service. In 1984 she was chosen to coordinate the New Zealand component at the fourth South Pacific Festival of Arts in Noumea. She was a member of Haeata - the Māori Women’s Collective, and was a weaver and a poet. In 1991 she hosted the weekly radio programme ‘Te Kupenga Kōrero" on Te Upoko o Te Ika in Wellington and she has been closely associated with the establishment of Te Ha - the society of Māori Writers. In 1993-94 Tungia co-produced and co-wrote a television documentary "A Whale out My window" which was about a Māori woman’s relationship with the environment and particularly the Southern Right whales at Campbell Island in sub-Antarctic. The documentary first premiered in Germany in 1996. She was a founding trustee of Project Tohora Trust which organised an expedition of non-scientific people who were developing research on the Southern Right whale in 1997; she was also a founding trustee of Puhake Ki Te Rangi - an organisation of people involved in the cultural harvest of stranded whales. She worked as an actor and completed a CD which contains stories translated into Māori. Tungia wrote non-fiction articles and also published some poems in the Dominion Museum publications.

Biographical sources

  • Interview and phone conversation with Tungia Baker in 1991 and 16 Aug. 1998.
  • "Field Service chief." Te Māori 5.1 (1973): 11.


  • "A Letter to Sophie: Hohi Pine Whaanga-Kaa (1903)." Haeata Herstory 1985. Auckland, N.Z.: Haeata Herstory Collective, New Women’s Press, 1984. 12. Rpt. in Te Ao Mārama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 3: Te Puāwaitanga O Te Kōrero: The Flowering. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1993. 334-335.
  • In this tribute to Hohi Whaanga-Kaa, Tungia Baker recalls their first meeting in 1960 and provides a brief summary of Whaanga-Kaa’s varied and active life as vicar’s wife, mother of twelve, "advocate of women’s rights and family planning", a founder of the Playcentre movement in the Waiapu valley, and strong opponent of apartheid in South Africa.
  • "Ko Haeata Te Hapu Ko Hine-Te-Iwa-Iwa Te Whare." Mana Tiriti: The Art of Protest and Partnership. Wellington, N.Z.: Haeata, Project Waitangi, City Art Gallery, Wellington City Council, Daphne Brasell, 1991. 76. Rpt. in Beryl Pears’ review of "Mana Tiriti Exhibition" Broadsheet 179 (1990): 20-23.
  • A description of the various elements in the Whare Hine-te-iwaiwa in the Mana Tiriti exhibition held at Wellington, N.Z. City Art Gallery from 14 April-17 June, 1990.
  • Other

  • Tu Tangata 15 (1984): 20.
  • Tungia Baker pays tribute to a tribal gathering in Ngāti Porou territory.
  • Sound recordings

  • Ipu: Waka and Kowhai. Auckland, N.Z.: Rattle, 1998.
  • A CD with a text by Tungia Baker, Māori translation by Wena Tait, and music composed by Gillian Whitehead (Ngaiterangi) for cello, piano, pu kaea and other instruments. Tungia’s story tells of the unrequited love affair between waka and kowhai.


  • "Field Service chief." Te Māori 5.1 (1973): 11.
  • An article discussing Baker’s appointment as National Representative of the American Field Service in New Zealand
  • "Māori Girls visit U. S." Te Ao Hou 24 (1958): 61.
  • "Tungia Baker." Tu Tangata 20 (1984): 13.
  • A profile on Baker which discusses her work as Executive Officer for the New Zealand delegation attending the South Pacific Festival of Arts held in Noumea in December 1984.
  • "Reassessment needed." Tu Tangata 26 (1985): 34.
  • Baker reports on the Māori contribution at the Pacific Festival of the Arts and outlines the areas that could be improved for future festivals.
  • "South Pacific Festival held in Tahiti." Tu Tangata 24 (1985): 37.