28 Nov 2014

German tourist becomes Maori expert

9:00 am on 28 November 2014

The first doctoral student from Germany studying at Victoria University will graduate next month with a PhD in Maori Studies.

Rebecca Burke - always fascinated by Maori culture.

Rebecca Burke - always fascinated by Maori culture. Photo: Victoria University

Rebecca Burke first came to New Zealand as a tourist seven years ago.

She was always fascinated with Maori culture, but it was only something she had read about. When she saw a Maori man walking down the street with full-face moko it ignited a big spark of interest.

After returning to Germany she decided to move to Aotearoa to embark on a PhD in Maori studies at Victoria University in Wellington.

During her doctoral studies, she attended a course at Te Wananga o Aotearoa and learnt how to make a korowai from Maori weaver Tracy Huxford which she says epitomises her six-year journey learning about Maori culture.

Ms Burke said the cloak represented her struggle and perseverance, and because her family could not make it to her graduation on 10 December, she said she felt as though her whanau was embracing her by her wearing it.

Her korowai is made out of cotton, peacock and chicken feathers, and two kakapo feathers.

Ms Burke said over the years she has also gained some skills from Awhina Tamarapa from Te Papa and many others along the way.