Wednesday, 29 September 2010

In Memory of Roger Neich

The Gallery has learnt with much sadness of the death of Professor Roger Neich at the age of 66.

New Zealand has lost in his passing one of our finest and most gifted citizens.

A humble man with much modesty, Roger rose to the heights of his profession both at the National Museum of New Zealand and at the Auckland Museum. His outstanding work as Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at The University of Auckland occurred while he was also working as the Curator of Ethnology at Auckland Museum.

Roger was immensely respected as one of New Zealand's most distinguished scholars and writers. A man with eminent expertise as both a curator and an ethnologist, he was known internationally as amongst the most generous, talented and brilliant museum professionals in the world.

A graduate from the University of California at Berkeley. His field work in Papua New Guinea and in Western Samoa was ground breaking and of exceptional merit for Pacific anthropology. His superb re-installation of the historical, modern and contemporary Maori and Pacific collections at Auckland Museums is considered one of the most important presentations of indigenous art in any museum.

His knowledge of the material culture of Aotearoa New Zealand and of the entire Pacific was so extensive that he was an expert of first recourse. His knowledge was unparalleled and so wide-ranging that all of us curators knew that Roger would always be able to answer even the most complex professional enquiry. I recall his close interest in an installation of Pacific tapa that I prepared for this Gallery, and he was able to speak off-the-cuff about every item spontaneously.
Amongst his important publications, many have been of profound significance because of their innovative scholarship and fresh presentation of history:
Material Culture of Western Samoa (1985)
Painted Histories - Early Maori Figurative Painting (1994)
Pacific Tapa (1997)
Traditional Tapa Textiles of the Pacific (1997)
Pounamu - Maori Jade of New Zealand (1997)
Carved Histories - Rotorua Ngati Tarawhai Woodcarving (2001)
Pacific Jewelery and Adornment (2004) - written with Pandora Fulimalo Pereira
The Oldman Collection of Pacific Artifacts (2004)
Vaka Moana - Voyages of the Ancestors (2006)

His last book, The Maori Collections of the British Museum (forthcoming later this year) will be the most important publication on Maori taonga issued this decade.

Dear Roger, we remember you with much aroha. You are an emblem for all of Aotearoa of bi-cultural life and scholarship.

E te rangatira Roger. Na te nui ou, nga te rongo ou, I heke ai te roimata. Moe mai I to moenga roa. Na o hoa mahi o Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tihei Mauri mate! Te taonga a te mate, takoto mai. Haere e pa i tau paki o hewa, okioki i te Matangi reia. Kei kona nga tupuna e tatari mou. E mihi ana ki tona pouaru, ona tamariki me te whanau pani.

Apiti hono tatai hono, ratou kia ratou. Apiti hono tatai hono tatou te hunga ora e noho mokemoke i muri nei.

Alice said...

Ia manuia lou malaga Roger! Samoa has loved you, and remembers you still... soifua!

Kay Neich said...

Just a very big thanks for these treasured comments and write-up, Ron. He would have been speechless. I was in a bit of a daze at Dad's funeral, and wish I got around to greeting more people. Several may have thought me a bit aloof! Will be in touch.

Kay (Rog's daughter)

Ron Brownson said...

The funeral for Roger Neich was very moving. All present that we have lost one of a wonderful man and a remarkable scholar.

Kay Neich said...

I tried posting earlier, but I don't think I got through. Anyway, your post has touched me deeply, Ron. I wish we met on Friday. These days after the funeral have been hectic. Will email you more personally in due course.

Warmesst regards,
Kay (Rog's daughter)

Terry Evans said...

I was saddened to hear of Roger's death. I learned so much from this exceptional man. He was a great teacher - kind and patient. I have such fond memories of him. My prayers are with his family.

Adele said...

I had no idea that Roger Neich had died, very sad, I had emailed him over the years, partly for his surname of Neich, as I am in Neich's Lane in Wairarapa where another family of Neich lived.. and Roger also assisted with items I enquired about, Maori... Heberley.. Very sorry to read this news about him..