Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku was the first Māori woman to earn a PhD in Aotearoa. It was conferred by University of Waikato in 1981, and now she has come full-circle with the University naming her Emeritus Professor.
Professor Te Awekotuku MNZM is an academic, author of fiction and non-fiction, an arts curator and critic, performer and activist who has given outstanding service to the humanities-aronui for more than 40 years.
Her degrees are in Art History, English and Psychology and her work and activism centres on tikanga Māori, cultural heritage, power and powerlessness, racism, gender and sexual rights, death and ritual, spirituality and creative expression.
Her versatility means she has presented across a range of academic platforms and conferences, including women’s studies, indigenous psychology, health, and museum and cultural heritage. She remains a very public intellectual.
University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley conferred the honour on Professor Te Awekotuku this week, during a ceremony filled with warmth, laughter, and acknowledgment of the line of strong Māori women and intellectuals she continues to embody.
Professor Te Awekotuku told those gathered it was an extraordinary moment in her life as a scholar, an activist, a rabble-rouser, a dreamer, a troublemaker. “I am aware that this belongs to all of us, and it particularly belongs to all those who nudged me along, who never lost faith in me, and that made sure I got here.”
She also paid tribute to those coming after her. “None of us would be here without our students, I thank you most of all, as that is the reason University of Waikato exists.”
Drawing laughter from the crowd, Professor Te Awekotuku said she did not want to get political, but hopes that many more of young people will come to the University, and follow their dreams. “That there will be a place for them. And that particularly in disciplines like psychology and indigenous studies, those places remain safe, secure and absolute.”