Samoan academic joins Te Papa curatorial team

A Samoan academic has been appointed one of the most senior staff at New Zealand’s world-renown Te Papa museum, as its Head of History and Pacific Cultures.

The appointment of Associate Professor Togialelei Dr. Safua Akeli Amaama comes after she was the first-ever woman to serve as Director of the Centre for Samoan Studies - a role she had held since March 2018. 

In her new position at Te Papa she will lead a team of curators focusing on the histories of Pacific people in New Zealand and New Zealand history.

It is a return to the national museum for Togialelei, who, was previously its Curator of Pacific Cultures from 2008 until 2013. 

The Maori co-leader of the museum executive, Dr. Arapata Hakiwai, said Togialelei’s experience was exactly what Te Papa needed.

“As well as her experience in curation and research, Dr Akeli Amaama brings wide experience in collaborating with communities,” Dr Hakiwai said.

“She has exactly the kind of experience and leadership we need at Te Papa, as a museum where the principle of mana taonga – connecting treasures to their source communities – is at the heart of everything we do.”

The museum’s Chief Executive, Courtney Johnston, who was appointed to the top job seven months ago, said Te Papa was lucky to welcome Togialelei back.

“We are delighted to appoint someone of Dr. Akeli Amaama’s calibre to this crucial leadership role,” Ms. Johnston said.

“Te Papa was lucky enough to have Dr. Akeli Amaama as our curator of Pacific cultures for five years, and we are excited to welcome her back into the Te Papa whānau (extended family).”

As well as her work in Te Papa, Togialelei will continue as an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Museum and Heritage Studies programme at Victoria University, and as an Associate Researcher for the Centre for Pacific Studies at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews.

During her time at the Centre for Samoan Studies, Togialelei presented at conferences including on public health care in Samoa at a conference in Australia and on gender inequality in Fiji.

Togialelei was involved in the work to open the Palauli Heritage Trails in Savaii, a village-led project in Vaitoomuli. 

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Otago University, Honours in History from Victoria University of Wellington, a Master’s in History from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a Doctorate in Philosophy History from the University of Queensland.  

She was raised in New Zealand, and spent time in Australia before returning to home of Samoa to join the Centre for Samoan Studies. 

Bg pattern light


Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?