Ulumate Project

(UN)Registered Savages

of Aotearoa

Daren Kamali + Ole Maiava

20 March 11am


Ulumate Project Prehistory

Ulumate or ‘dead head’ was the ancient practice of wig making by iTaukei (indigenous Fijians), dormant for the last 200 years in Fiji. This was normally practiced during the time of mourning, when the drau-ni-ulu (hair) was cut and made into a wig then worn until the hair beneath grew back.

In the pre-Christian era, ulu cavu were also worn in warfare. During postcolonial times, ulu cavu were worn by Qita (selected men) with wau (weapons) who looked after the plantations where wi (Brazilian plums) and duruka (the edible insides of reeds) grew. A Qita wore the ulu cavu with white bark cloth up to his eyes, Mata Vulo (white face). It was forbidden to call him by his name or talk to him while he was in costume and at work.

Ulu cavu is the generic Fijian term for human hair wig. In ancient traditions of iTaukei in Fiji, an ulu cavu was intentionally made during a time of mourning, warfare or worship.

This exhibition is part one of the Dua: Drau ni ulu tabu – the Sacredness of Hair – Ulumate Project series.



Mata-Makawa – Mata-Vou: Old Face – Niu/New Face

Kia ora, bula vinaka and mālō lava.

Thank you for taking an interest in our exhibition. In 2019 we were fortunate to access Creative New Zealand (CNZ) funding, which sent us on a research trip to the United Kingdom, to look at ulumate in collections at the following institutions:

− Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge

− The Horniman Public Museum and Public Park Trust

− Royal Museums Greenwich, National Maritime Museum


This exhibition is a direct response to the ulumate collections we encountered along the way.

It was interesting to see how we were treated in terms of regulations and protocols around the handling of taonga in the UK as opposed to here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The masks are our kinesthetic, aesthetic, 3D responses to the particular ulumate photographed in the UK collections and exhibited on the walls of Te Tuhi. The poems are our literary responses to the masks.



(UN)Registered Savages of Aotearoa

Daren Kamali and Ole Maiava are multi-media artists, working together on the revival, research and making of modern-day ulu cavu. They formed the (UN)Registered Savages of Aotearoa in 2015. They have been working on the making of a contemporary ulumate, through research and collaboration with iTaukei artists and researchers in Aotearoa, Fiji and the world, towards completion by 2022.

“We look forward to connecting, further research, and sharing with museums, universities and communities in Aotearoa New Zealand, Fiji, Oceania, the UK and the USA.”

Vinaka vaka levu and mālō lava

Daren and Ole


Ole Maiava is currently a Senior Placemaker for Panuku Development Auckland where he works mainly in South Auckland. He is passionate about working with youth and community development, especially those without a voice. He has developed, through experience at the ‘coalface’ and as a practicing multi-disciplinary artist, a set of skills that enable him to work closely with many different communities but concentrates a lot of his work on Pacific and Māori issues. Prior to his current role, he was Senior Outreach Programmer for Auckland War Memorial Museum 2012-2016. He was also the Pasifika Festival Director 2007-2012 with a brief stint of producing Community Fan Zones for Rugby World Cup 2011. Maiava also piloted the first Youth Transition Service for Porirua City Council after leaving Te Wananga o Aotearoa, an indigenous university, where he held various positions from HOD of Performing Arts at Porirua Campus to Pacific Liaison for the institution. Maiava is part of the (Un)Registered Savages of Aotearoa with Fijian artist Daren Kamali, both currently working on the Ulumate Project.




Poet, writer, and musician Daren Kamali was born in Fiji and moved to New Zealand as a child. He is the author of the trilogy of poetry books celebrating the Polynesian, Indonesian, and Melanesian world: Tales, Poems and Songs from the Underwater World (2011), Squid Out of Water: The Evolution (2014), and What Becomes of the Flying Squid? (2016). He has also released two albums, Story (2000) and Keep it Real (2005).


Before earning a BA at Manukau Institute of Technology, Kamali worked in youth arts programming as a mentor. In 2008, with Grace Taylor and Ramon Narayan, he founded the South Auckland Poets Collective, a youth program dedicated to poetry as an agent of social change. In 2013, Kamali and Taylor founded Niu Navigations, an organization aimed at encouraging Pan-Pacific writers to tell their stories. He is a former Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and has held residencies at the University of Iowa as part of its International Writing Program.





Photography : Julia Mage'au Grey