In Memory of Roger Neich

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Wednesday 29 September 2010
Ron Brownson

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.