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Kuia Toby Jug: What's Wrong with It?

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Writer: Trevor Sharp
Year: 9 - 10
Level: 4
Duration: 6 - 8 lessons

The students will use the Te Papa digital resource, Kuia toby jug from the Titian studio to explore, through drama, the potential cultural sensitivity around art works and the conditions under which such items might usefully be displayed to the public. They will create their own drama on the issue of unwittingly causing offence and ways to deal with this issue in their own lives.

Kuia toby jug, late 1950s


This is a ceramic toby jug in the form of a Maori kuia (old lady) with a moko (tattoo) on her chin. She wears a red head-scarf and a small tiki (pendant) and smokes a pipe. This jug was made by Titian Studio, Auckland, in the late 1950s. It measures 15 cm (height) x 10 cm (width) x 12 cm (depth). The base has a pounamu (greenstone) appearance, while the handle resembles a pounamu mere (club).

Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Educational Value

This asset is an example of the work of Titian Studio, which was founded by the prolific and influential ceramic artists, Cameron and Dorothy Brown. It is one of the more than 1,000 different products made by Titian Studios and its predecessor Sherwood Pottery. They were described by Cameron Brown as being kitsch but popular at the time. It demonstrates the use of Māori images in kitsch souvenirs. Although a souvenir such as this would be deemed unacceptable or tasteless today, marketing at the time capitalised on the appeal of Māori to tourists. It is an example of how the iconic work of the Browns reflected the values and images of New Zealand and New Zealanders in the 1950s by producing decorative mugs, tankards, plates, lamp bases and other items that depicted themes from rugby to scenery, native birds and trout. It illustrates the adaptation of the toby jug tradition to a New Zealand setting. Toby jugs are sometimes called fillpots, both names taken from Toby Fillpot, the inebriated character in the 18th-century song 'Little Brown Jug', developed and popularised in England around 1762. The toby jug has become a collector's piece. The first jugs generally had plain handles but these developed to reflect the character depicted. For instance, a jug for highwayman Dick Turpin had a gun for a handle, and one for Long John Silver, a parrot.


Diversity: The students will explore aspects of Māori tikanga and some of the heritage behind it.

Respect: The students will explore respect for different cultures' rights. They will examine the need for sensitivity, where some things acceptable in one culture may give offence in another, and the importance of equity and integrity when reaching compromise.

Key Competencies

Thinking: The students will explore and present contrary arguments surrounding a course of action in the medium of drama. They will need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of others to try and understand the reasons for their views.

Using language, symbols, and texts: The students will practise interpreting visual image on a literal and cultural level and improve their skills in creating and reading tableaux. Students will also defend their viewpoint by writing in role.

Managing self: The students will learn how to manage themselves and set high standards in devising and refining dramas in group situations. They will need to develop strategies for solving problems and the skill of knowing when to lead and when to follow.

Relating to others: The students will interact with others in developing and performing a variety of fictional roles. They will work extensively in ensemble situations to create drama.

Participating and contributing: The students will participate in a number of role plays where the success of the activity depends on the quality of their contribution. They will also participate in a range of group-based drama activities.

Cross Curriculum Links

English, Social Studies, Visual Arts

Achievement Objectives: Level 4

The students will:

Understanding the Arts in Context (UC)

Investigate the functions, purposes, and technologies of drama in cultural and historical contexts.

Developing Practical Knowledge (PK)

Select and use techniques and relevant technologies to develop drama practice. Use conventions to structure drama.

Developing Ideas (DI)

Initiate and refine ideas with others to plan and develop drama.

Communicating and Interpreting (CI)

Present and respond to drama, identifying ways in which elements, techniques, conventions, and technologies create meaning in their own and others' work.

Specific Learning Outcomes

The student can:

  • Select and use techniques suitable to develop a particular role.
  • Devise and perform a drama within specific limitations, using prescribed conventions.
  • Maintain a role and write a summary of the in-role discussion.
  • Contribute ideas to a shared role promoting a specific viewpoint.
  • Provide relevant feedback to other students' work identifying ways in which techniques and conventions create meaning.
  • Participate appropriately in the planning and development process of a group drama.



elaborate-continue: a story telling strategy aimed at improving the detail and quality of the narration. The listener, at any point he/she wants more detail, says "elaborate" and the narrator must stop the plot and describe what he/she mentioned last (e.g. the house, the hair, the happiness, the hunger). When the listener has heard enough, he/she says "continue" and the narrator goes back to the plot.

freeze frame: a convention used in performance and process drama in which a person or the members of a group use their bodies to make an image capturing an idea, theme, or moment in time.

mantle of the expert: a process convention in which the participants become characters endowed with specialist knowledge relevant to the situation of the drama. The situation is usually task-oriented so that expert knowledge or understanding are required to perform the task.

pair sharing: a strategy where students discuss a problem or issue in pairs before the discussion takes place in larger groups. This gives the students a chance to test ideas in a 'safer' environment.

tableau: another term for freeze frame but involving more than one person.

technique: a particular method or procedure used to achieve a specific purpose. In drama, the term relates to the use of voice, body (e.g. facial expression and gesture), movement and use of space.

tension: (element) where mental pressure or emotional intensity is used to provoke a response, focus attention, or heighten involvement.

thought tapping: a process convention in which the action freezes and a leader moves among the participants, tapping individual's shoulders to activate the speaking aloud of the thoughts of that role.

TIR (teacher in role): a process convention and teaching strategy where the teacher manages a class from within a drama by taking a role to deepen and extend students' inquiry and learning.

The Big Question

  • How important is it to be aware of things that might be offensive to other cultures or other people?
  • Is it all right for museums to display items that might offend some people?
Learning Experiences Teaching Notes

1. Introduction - - Gift Giving

  • Have the students sit in pairs facing each other. Each student takes a good look at his/her partner to decide (without telling the other) on a gift he/she would like to give the partner. Money is no object.
  • Each turns away from the partner to wrap the gift. The teacher coaches the students with a series of questions about the choice of paper, method of wrapping, type of card, what will they write in the card, etc. The wrapping is mimed and done in the mind.
  • The pairs decide who will be A and who will be B. B leaves the gift he/she is giving on the floor behind. Firstly, A presents the gift to B. B has to accept, unwrap and identify the gift guided by hints (not too broad) from A. For example:
    • How A lifts and holds the gift
    • "Nice bow, isn't it?"
    • "Are you going to read what's in the card?"
    • "Doesn't the bow match the paper nicely? Your favourite colour, too."
  • When B has received and identified the gift fully, it is now his/her turn to give A his/her gift using the same process.
  • Now each student must decide on a realistic reason why he/she is unable to accept the gift that has been given and must find a way of returning it without giving offence. For example:
    • The student who returned an hourglass because she had been just told she only had months to live.
    • The student who gave back a cane bassinet because she had been told she could never have children.
  • The students each return the gift to the partner giving their explanation.
  • Reflect on the experience as a class sharing some of the reasons for not accepting gifts.
This introduction is adapted from a drama by Margaret Burke.The teacher may need to encourage students to be sensible about the gifts for the exercise to have more meaning for the students.The teacher will almost certainly need to model the types of hints that are wanted. This is a fairly sophisticated imagination and language task.Discuss how this is play and should be enjoyed rather than rushed. Often slowly is better.Sometimes students devise very interesting or significant reasons for returning gifts that have the potential to be explored in other dramas with the class later on.

2. The Pretext : To buy or not to buy.

Put students into role in small groups (2 -4) as advisors to the local museum (mantle of the expert) who have expertise in twentieth century cultural artefacts and have gathered to assess an item the museum is considering adding to its collection.Introduce the session with a brief TIR to set the task:

"It is good of you to be able to take time out of your very busy lives and come at such short notice to advise us on a possibly contentious acquisition we are considering making for the museum's growing collection of 'Twentieth Century New Zealand Cultural Artefacts'. I know you all have considerable expertise in the wide variety of art objects that are distinctive to our culture and have contributed to our culture. We are delighted that you are willing to assist us with this knowledge and experience today.

"As you will all be aware, the museum is becoming well known for the importance of its twentieth century artefacts collection and is always looking to add to it.

"In this case time is of the essence, because the piece in question comes up for auction tomorrow evening in the city and we need to have a clear idea of what we are purchasing and how much we should be prepared to bid.

"Unfortunately I can only provide you with an illustration of the item and the auction blurb to help you with your deliberations.

"What we would like from you today, as far as you are able, is a detailed description of the piece and an assessment of its value to the museum as part of the 'Twentieth Century New Zealand Cultural Artefacts' section. I have prepared a form for you to complete with the information we are seeking."Hand out illustrations of the jug along with brief notes .

Hand out Museum Acquisition Form

When groups have had time to discuss the illustration and make the required notes, discuss the information by way of TIR collating the advice of the experts.

This role play requires the students to be only loosely in role. The teacher, who can also be in role for the whole role play, can, by comments from within the role, maintain the atmosphere of the role for the students and encourage them to enjoy being the experts.Although the curator (teacher) is employing experts (students), the curator has authority as the convenor of the meeting and the employer of expertise. This gives the teacher the chance to manage the class from within the role.It is advisable to have a prearranged signal whereby anyone in the role play can call 'time out' in order to clarify something outside the role. The teacher will then restart the role play where and when the class is ready.

Key Competency This discussion is an aspect of using language, symbols and texts. Developing skill in this competency may be evaluated by the teacher or the students themselves.

3. The Rising Action: In the Museum

Read out a letter of complaint to the museum curator regarding the exhibit.Divide the class into groups of five. In each group, one student is to play the role of Mr Williams, another is to play his wife, another is to be a museum attendant in the exhibition. The other two students play the roles of directors and assist the actors in their work. Arrange the groups around the perimeter of the classroom.

Task A Each group creates a freeze frame of the point of highest dramatic tension in the scene that follows Mr Williams' first catching sight of the exhibit.

Task B The two directors in each group move around (in a clockwise direction) to the next group and write a dialogue suggested by the freeze frame they see. (The actors may have input into the dialogue.) Each actor may have only 2 speeches and the scene must end with the freeze frame the directors see when they arrive.

Task C Each pair of directors leave the script they have written and move on (again in a clockwise direction) to the next group of actors and the script that has been left with them. They then direct the actors in a performance of the scene. The scene must end with the actors' original freeze frame and the dialogue must be the one written. However, characters may repeat lines, the order of lines may be changed and words may be omitted. But no new lines may be added.

Task D Actors and directors work in detail to produce a polished performance that is as realistic and convincing as they can make it. Careful attention should be paid to the actors' techniques in their use of voice, body, movement and space.

Task E The performances are presented to the rest of the class. After each performance the teacher asks the audience:

  • Tell me one thing that you feel worked well in the performance.
  • Tell me one thing that you feel the group has to work on.
  • What might they do to improve this thing that needs work?

Task F (Optional) Send the groups off to do extra work and then re-view the performances. After each performance the teacher asks the audience:

  • What was the group set to concentrate on?
  • What change/development has occurred?

Assessment Opportunity

  • Select and use techniques suitable to develop a particular role.
  • Devise and perform a drama within specific limitations, using prescribed conventions.

(See Assessment )

Assessment Opportunity

  • Provide relevant feedback to other students' work identifying ways in which techniques and conventions create meaning.

(See Assessment )

4. What's to be done?

Ask students to form a continuum ranging from those, who strongly agree the exhibit should be removed, standing at one end to those, who feel the exhibit should stay, standing at the other.

Divide the class into two groups by splitting the continuum in the middle. Those who support the exhibit's removal will play the shared role of Wiremu Williams. Those who support its remaining will play the shared role of Jess Meyers, the museum's curator.

Set the chairs up as in Resource D. Select a student who strongly supports the removal of the exhibit to be the spokesperson for the Wiremu role. The other advocates for its removal cluster around behind and act as advisors who suggest what the person playing Wiremu might say when he/she needs some help. Similarly, the representative for Jess and supporters for Jess cluster round the person playing him/her and provide assistance as required.

The situation is that the museum has contacted Mr Williams and invited him to come in to discuss the matter of the Kuia toby jug. The scene takes place in the curator's office.Before the role play begins, the teacher asks each group:

  • What do you think the other person is going to argue?
  • What sort of thing might you say in reply?
  • What would you like to happen as a result of this conversation?

Write the replies on the board where the participants can see them.

The conversation begins with Jess, the curator of the museum, saying,

"Good morning, Mr Williams. My name is Jess Meyers and I am the curator here. Thank you for being prepared to come in to discuss the matter of the Kuia toby jug. What is it exactly that upsets you?

"Run the conversation until some kind of resolution is reached. Depending on the experience and ability of the class, the teacher may have to join in some of the discussions to keep the conversation advancing.

As a class, vote whether the exhibit should be removed or not.If the decision is that it should remain, students are to write the description that goes with it to explain why the decision has been made to keep it on display despite some people finding it offensive.

If the decision is that it should be removed, students are to write a notice of explanation that will sit in the empty space where the exhibit was.

The teacher may wish to use some of the Self or Peer/Group evaluation templates in Appendices 2 - 7 in order to evaluate student progress in relevant Key Competencies here.

It is suggested that teachers choose those most relevant to their students rather than using them all. Questions and foci can be changed in the templates as well to make them relevant to individual students. The very best practice would be to co-construct the templates with groups of (or even individual) students.

Key Competency: Remind students that thinking is an important part of learning where they are drawing on personal intuitions, asking questions and using intellectual curiosity.

Assessment Opportunity

  • Contribute ideas to a shared role promoting a specific viewpoint.

(See Assessment )

5. Reflection

Set up a table in the centre of the room to represent a display shelf for the exhibits of Twentieth Century Cultural Artefacts in the museum. On the table prop up a copy of the picture of the Kuia toby jug with the card explaining why it is being exhibited (if this is the class decision) or a card representing the explanation of why it is no longer on display.

Ask students to place themselves in the exhibition space physically demonstrating in a freeze frame how they feel about what they see. Ask them to prepare in their minds a brief statement of what they are thinking or how they are feeling about what they see.

The teacher moves about the space. When the teacher thought taps or approaches a student, that student speaks his/her thoughts aloud.

Here the teacher can remind students they are practising aspects of the managing self, participating and contributing and thinking Key Competencies.

6. A Performance

Recall the opening activity of the drama and some of the reasons for returning the gifts.

Ask students to pair share some occasion when they have unwittingly offended or hurt someone or group of people. Use the elaborate-continue technique to build the stories. After each story, the listener should ask questions to improve understanding of the situation.

Each pair joins another to make groups of four. Each student relates, in role, the story he/she heard from the partner. At the end of each story, the original teller comments on the accuracy of the retelling clearing up any misconceptions.

The group selects one of the incidents to present dramatically. At this point the story becomes the property of the group, who may decide to use poetic licence in order to give more impact to the point of the story or to improve it as a drama. Two students become the actors (the offender and the offended) and the other two take on roles as directors.

The groups decide on three tableaux - one for the beginning of their piece, one on which it will end and one for the moment that the offender realises that something is very wrong. They then choose an opening line and, through a process of improvisation and discussion, devise the incident. The directors assist with the devising and provide assistance with the acting.

When the performance, lasting no longer than two minutes, has been devised and thoroughly rehearsed, it is performed for the rest of the class.

The groups then use their directors (one for each actor) to provide the voices in the head during the performance. These are discussed and rehearsed as part of the original performance. (The ex-directors stand at each side of the performance area and speak the thoughts for their actor as the performance proceeds.) It takes some careful rehearsal and timing to make this effective.

These enhanced performances are presented to the rest of the class.

Reflection Circle Ask the students in a reflection circle:

  • Tell us one thing you enjoyed doing in this drama.
  • Tell us one thing you learned from doing this drama.

Elaborate-continue is a useful story telling strategy aimed at improving the detail and quality of the narration. The listener, at any point he/she wants more detail, says "elaborate" and the narrator must stop the plot and describe what he/she mentioned last (e.g. the house, the hair, the happiness, the hunger). When the listener has heard enough, he/she says "continue" and the narrator goes back to the plot. This may need to be practised with the class using a well known story, say "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", before it is used as preparation for developing a story for performance.It is important that the story selected has dramatic potential. To assist the quality of the final product, it is advisable that the teacher, at this stage, checks what the students have chosen to work with.

Assessment Opportunity

  • Devise and perform a drama within specific limitations, using prescribed conventions.
  • Participate appropriately in the planning and development process of a group drama.

(See Assessment )These comments will often be related to various Key Competencies. It is helpful for the teacher to highlight these.

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