Favourite Things: Auckland Museum Curator Juliana Satchell-Deo

By Sarah Downs
Auckland Museum's associate curator of Pacific, Juliana Satchell-Deo. Photo / Supplied

Growing up in many places from Papua New Guinea to Australia and Fiji Juliana Satchell-Deo finds ways to reconnect back to her culture through her role as associate curator of Pacific at Auckland War Memorial Museum. She works to bring the museum's Pacific collection to life through exhibitions and access to archived objects for Pacific Island communities, researchers, professionals and students.

“Living so far away from my birthplace, I’ve always felt that sense of belonging to my indigenous culture,” says Juliana.

“I learnt from a young age the importance of storytelling to be able to pass the knowledge on. At the museum a lot of our archive was collected during early days and lacks detailed descriptions. That’s where I come in and try to bring the voices back to the objects.”

Her latest project, the museum's exhibition Voyage to Aotearoa: Tupaia and the Endeavour tells the largely untold story of Tahitian Tupaia and his role in Captain Cook's travels around New Zealand and coincides with the 250th anniversary of Cook's arrival in New Zealand.

Tupaia was a navigator, high chief, and priest from Ra’iatea, one of the central islands in the Society Islands archipelago near Tahiti, and played a significant role in Cook’s first voyage.

Juliana says her discovery of Tupaia has been an “incredible learning experience” and hopes audiences feel the same.

“My background is Papua New Guinea, Torres Strait Island and Solomon Islands, so my story is more Melanesian,” she says. “I hope visitors leave the exhibition knowing who Tupaia is and wanting to know more about him and the history of the land.

“It’s been so valuable learning about other significant people in our history because we are all part of the Pacific.”

• Voyage to Aotearoa: Tupaia and the Endeavour runs until March 15, in Auaha Atea Nui Special Exhibition Hall, free with museum entry. Aucklandmuseum.com


(From left) Flox Print; Mana Moana Taonga — Whalebone necklace. Photo / Supplied
(From left) Flox Print; Mana Moana Taonga — Whalebone necklace. Photo / Supplied

1. Flox Print
I admire Flox as an artist and this print is like an impression of delight on my wall. My husband got me this print as a gift. It means a lot to me because he works in the trade industry and we are the complete opposites when it comes to interests in art.

2. Mana Moana Taonga Whalebone necklace
The taonga was gifted when I graduated from Leadership NZ's The Mana Moana Experience. The necklace is precious because it symbolises growth both personally and professionally. The necklace also connects me to the deeply inspiring and beautiful 2019 cohort. The Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Foundation North organisation supported me on this journey, and I am grateful.

Ring. Photo / Babiche Martens
Ring. Photo / Babiche Martens

3. Ring
My sister visited me from Australia and she brought a ring belonging to my grandmother who had recently passed away. It was the first thing she placed in my hand when meeting me at the airport. As I stood in the busy airport the memories unravelled. I travelled to moments of my childhood where I could smell the baking of my nana's apple pie and remember the taste of her damper.

(From left) The Eyes of the Skin by Juhani Pallasma; Baby Bilum. Photo / Babiche Martens
(From left) The Eyes of the Skin by Juhani Pallasma; Baby Bilum. Photo / Babiche Martens

4. The Eyes of the Skin by Juhani Pallasma
My background is in spatial design and architecture and this book was introduced to me by one of my lecturers in 2007. I carry a copy around with me most times in my bag. The book is by Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa and his writings support my interests in phenomenology the "lived experiences" of the subjects of the study, meaning subjective understandings of their own experiences.

5. Baby Bilum
This is my eldest daughter's baby bilum, a string bag made by hand in Papua New Guinea. Angelle slept in and was carried in the bilum from birth to around 2 years of age. A bilum is a type of bag made using a looping technique. Bilum are used to carry garden crops, food, firewood and babies.

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