Dr. Charles Royal (Te Ahukaramu) describes himself as "composer of ideas, text and music". This description captures Charles’ diverse experiences with research in traditional Māori knowledge; he wrote for a variety of projects, including music composition and performance. Charles says that an important part of his journey has been to understand the nature of composing and how diverse interests can be harmonised within the work of a composer.
Charles is a director of Mauriora-ki-te-Ao/Living Universe Ltd. He belongs to Marutūahu, Ngāti Raukawa and Ngā Puhi and has worked as a researcher of traditional Māori knowledge for over fifteen years. In 1986, he completed a Bachelor of Music with a composition major at Victoria University’s School of Music. He completed his honours year in 1989. In 1991, he completed a Masterate of Philosophy at Massey University. His dissertation contained a study of traditional song poetry of his iwi. In 1998 he completed doctoral study at Victoria University. His dissertation was entitled “Te Whare Tapere: Towards a Model for Māori Performing Arts”.
Charles has written and published five books on subjects including the research of tribal histories and tradition, traditional Māori song poetry, iwi history through place names, the writings of the late Rev. Māori Marsden, and a representation of an 1856 manuscript dictated by his namesake Hokiki Te Ahukaramu to Sir Donald McLean, the first Minister of Native Affairs. He contributed to He waiata onamata: Songs from the past published by Huia Publishers in 1998. From 2000-2002, he wrote a column entitled “Te Ao Mārama” for Tū mai.
From 1996 to 2002, Charles was Director of Graduate Studies and Research at Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa (a Māori-operated centre of higher learning located at Otaki). During this time, he also convened a masters programme in mātauranga Māori. In 2001 Charles was Fulbright New Zealand Senior Scholar and was a recipient of a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Scholarship. These awards enabled him to travel to the United States and Canada to conduct a comparative study of indigenous worldviews.
In October 2004, Charles was a resident at the Rockefeller Foundation Study and Research Center in Bellagio, Italy, where he began work on a new book on indigenous knowledge. Charles’s research interests lie with creativity, innovation and traditional Māori knowledge and with te whare tapere, indigenous theatre and performing arts.
In 2005 he worked as researcher and writer for Te Ara-New Zealand On-Line Encyclopaedia (Ministry of Culture and Heritage) and as Senior Advisor, Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. He is a trustee for SOUNZ New Zealand Music Centre and is a member of the Māori Heritage Council (NZ Historic Places Trust), and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Board. Charles also speaks widely to a variety of audiences on topics such as indigenous knowledge, indigeneity, mātauranga Māori and te whare tapere.
In 2004, Charles established Ōrotokare: Art, Story, Motion Trust as a vehicle to advance ideas first developed in his masterate and doctoral researches. Whare tapere are iwi/hapū located ‘houses’ of storytelling, dance, music, games and other entertainments. The work of Ōrotokare is to establish the modern whare tapere, a goal they achieved in February 2010 in Hauraki. As part of this new whare tapere, Te Kārohirohi: The Light Dances was performed for the first time. Charles has been a contributor to the following projects: Bateman New Zealand Historical Atlas, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Encyclopaedia of World Music, and Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature.
"Charles is also Professor of Indigenous Development, and Director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, a centre of research excellence hosted by the University of Auckland. Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga commissions excellent multi-disciplinary research addressing needs and opportunities facing Māori."
He also took up the role of Associate Director of Te Papa’s Ngā Manu Atarau directorate in February 2016.
- Interview and correspondence with Te Ahukaramu Charles Royal in Aug. 1992, 24 Aug. 1998, 15 and 16 Feb,.and 31 Oct. 2005.
- Te Haurapa: An Introduction to Researching Tribal Histories and Traditions. Wellington, N.Z.: Bridget Williams
- the Historical Branch, Dept. of Internal Affairs/Te Puna Kōrero Tuku Iho A Te Tari Taiwhenua, 1992.
http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/events/2012-transit-of-venus-forum-lifting-our-horizon/speakersprogramme/professor-charles-royal/ 9 September 2016
https://www.tepapa.govt.nz/about/press-and-media/press-releases/2016-news-and-media-releases/te-papa-welcomes-dr-charles-royal 9 September 2016