19 Nov 2020

Rangi Mātāmua wins Callaghan Medal for science contributions

5:12 pm on 19 November 2020

Professor Rangi Mātāmua has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to science communication.

Māori astronomer and University of Waikato professor Dr Rangi Mātāmua.

Māori astronomer and University of Waikato professor Dr Rangi Mātāmua. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The Tūhoe astronomer, from the University of Waikato, won the 2020 Callaghan Medal at the Research Honours Aotearoa awards in Auckland last night.

He was recognised for his passion to engage the public on science and mātauranga Māori, which has seen him give more than 100 public lectures and write a best-selling book.

"Importantly, Rangi's work is communicated in both English and te reo Māori, and he is making new linguistic contributions pertaining to te reo Māori and Māori astronomy - helping to expand both fields," Royal Society Te Apārangi said.

It said this "new approach to understanding the place and importance of Māori science within the wider field of science has the potential to be transformative" and Rangi was "championing a more open, inclusive and innovation view of science".

There is a long history of connection between the Royal Society Te Apārangi and Mātāmua's whānau, as his ancestor Te Kōkau Himiona Te Pikikōtuku was an informant of ethnographer and Royal Society member Elsdon Best in the late 1800s.

Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Porou historian Ngarino Ellis was also recognised for her book A Whakapapa of Tradition: One Hundred Years of Ngāti Porou Carving 1830-1930, which promotes a century of work by carvers from the Iwirākau School.

Ngarino Ellis

Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Porou historian Ngarino Ellis. Photo: supplied

She was awarded the Royal Society Te Apārangi Early Career Research Excellence Award for Humanities in recognition of her "advancing theoretical knowledge in her field, and thus enriching the humanities more broadly, and responding to the changing needs of Māori whānau, hapū, and iwi as well."

This is the first work on tāonga tuku iho/ancestral treasures and oral narratives by the "promising Māori art historian", who "draws on kaupapa Māori principles and other global-indigenous understandings" such as the importance of ancestral wisdom in making art and the materials used, the Royal Society said.

It said that Ngarino always sought to initiate projects that benefited her whānau, hapū and iwi.

She has previously won four major awards for A Whakapapa of Tradition, including an Ockham in 2017, Te Mahi Toi/Arts Award and a Best First Book Award in 2017, and the prize for Māori and Pacific Art Writing in 2018.

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