Te Hei Tiki: An Enduring Treasure in a Cultural Continuum

Book Author Dougal Austin
Rights Available World excl. NZ

Of all Māori personal adornments, the human figure pendants known as hei tiki are the most famous, highly prized and culturally iconic. This book examines and celebrates the long history of hei tiki and the enduring cultural potency of these taonga or cultural treasures. This first book on hei tiki for 60 years is written by the Acting Senior Curator Mātauranga Māori at Te Papa, who is a hei tiki expert, and includes a large selection of hei tiki, most from the taonga Māori collections of Te Papa, which is the largest in New Zealand and very likely the world. Many are published here for the first time, including some with exalted histories of ownership. It also covers the work of leading contemporary hei tiki makers.

Commended for AAANZ Book Prizes – Best Art Writing by a NZ Māori or Pasifika 2019

About the Author
Dougal Austin
(Kāti Māmoe, Kai Tahu, Waitaha) is Senior Curator Mātauranga Māori at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. He has a particular research interest in the origins, development, cultural use and significance of hei tiki. His current work has included a tour of the Kura Pounamu exhibition in China.


Te Papa Press


250 x 220 mm


Non Fiction

Art & History

Publication Date
September 2019

Rights Available:
World excl. NZ

Contact Te Papa Press about this book

The book title link will automatically be added to your message.

Selected as one of the Best Books of the Year by a panel of NZ Listener reviewers: 'A welcome, some would say long-overdue, insight into the history, mystery, meaning and manufacture of the varied forms and features of our most ubiquitous Maori motif by Te Papa curator Dougal Austin, supported by a stunning gallery of photographed hei tiki.'; 'This well-researched and well-written book discussed their value and status as taonga; their use and meaning; their various types and shapes; and their rich history ... adds a brilliant series of photographs showing the making of a hei tiki by hand ...' - Art News; 'Lavishly illustrated, with many of the hei tiki pictured in larger-than-life-size, full-page glory, the book has some claim to being described as a taonga in its own right.

North & South