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Object: Umu pack

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Title Umu pack
Production Unknown, circa 2008
Materials cardboard, pressure-sensitive tape, ink
Classification boxes
Credit line Gift of Reverend Iamanu Amaama, 2011
Registration number FE012635

Umu pack

This small rectangular cardboard box is an umu pack. In the Samoan language, the term umu refers to food cooked in an earth oven. This specially made box is used by air travellers who wish to bring foodstuff that was cooked in an umu into New Zealand.


Pacific Islands migrants and travellers do much to keep their cultural practices alive between New Zealand and in their islands of origin. For example, Tongans have brought their ngatu (barkcloth) to New Zealand, Samoans their ‘ie toga (finemats), the Cook Islands their tivaevae (quilts). Some have brought such quantities of their indigenous textiles that New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has had to regulate and monitor their entry at the border. Biosecurity regulations prevent unwanted seeds, pests and diseases from entering the country in these textiles and other cultural items. Similar restrictions apply to imported foodstuffs.

The umu pack is a local development that helps New Zealand biosecurity officials to manage the indigenous foods Pacific peoples bring with them to New Zealand. These include taro, fish, bananas and other fruits such as coconuts and mangoes. New Zealand’s biosecurity regulations restrict the types of food carried across the border and encourage people to pack cooked foods in the specially produced umu packs. These boxes are uniform in size and shape and are easy to handle and store in aircraft.

The umu pack relates to the history and management of New Zealand's biosecurity and how New Zealand's relationship with Pacific peoples have shaped and transformed these policies. It also reminds us of the ways people keep cultural connections alive and how travellers can take a little taste of home to family and friends living overseas.

Acquisition history

This particular umu pack was brought to New Zealand in 2011 by the Reverend Iamanu Amaama and his wife Toeafualetaeao. They had come to Wellington to visit their son who had immigrated to New Zealand from Samoa in 2008.

Related information

Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.