Iwi ex­hi­bi­tion tim­ing a per­fect fit

The tim­ing couldn’t be bet­ter for Ngati Toa – a $70 mil­lion treaty set­tle­ment signed off in April, and im­mense op­por­tu­ni­ties for the iwi. What bet­ter time to tell the story of how they got there? TESSA JOHNSTONE re­ports.

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS -

Some sto­ries tell them­selves, and some taonga pick their time to shine, too.

It’s taken more than a year of talk­ing, col­lect­ing and prepa­ra­tion for the 30- month ex­hi­bi­tion Whiti Te Ra: The Story of Ngati Toa Ran­gatira, which opened at Te Papa last weekend.

Ngati Toa are the sev­enth iwi to hold court at the na­tional mu­seum. Ngati Toa spokes­woman Jen­nie Smeaton said though the tim­ing of the ex­hi­bi­tion was just a co­in­ci­dence, re­flec­tion was timely.

‘‘Any iwi given the op­por­tu­nity to present their story within a na­tional mu­seum con­text is pretty sig­nif­i­cant,’’ she said.

‘‘ But there were some key korero we wanted to share with people – the story of how Ngati Toa came here, the Treaty set­tle­ments and the haka.’’

It was Te Rau­paraha – the man re­spon­si­ble for the All Blacks’ haka – who recog­nised the strate­gic im­por­tance of Cook Strait and led the charge on re­set­tling the tribe from Kawhia.

There were some bloody bat­tles, some nec­es­sary al­liances and, by 1840, Ngati Toa Ran­gatira was recog­nised as the dom­i­nant tribe in Kapiti, Welling­ton and the top of the South Is­land.

One of the taonga tak­ing pride of place in the ex­hi­bi­tion is a mere pounamu ( green­stone club) named Tuhi­wai, a peace of­fer­ing given in ex­change for a waka taua (war ca­noe) by Ngai Tahu chief Te Matenga Ta­iaroa. It sig­nalled the end of the con­flict over land at the top of the south.

‘‘ It was the heal­ing of the tribes,’’ said Karanga Metekingi, whose fa­ther put it in the care of the Do­min­ion Mu­seum in the 1960s.

‘‘He thought it should be here for all our grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren,’’ said Metekingi. Un­til then, Ngati Toa fam­i­lies had held it since 1839.

Te Papa kaiti­aki taonga Moana Parata, who is from Ngati Toa, said it was lucky there was such a wealth of ob­jects to choose from – but it wasn’t a dif­fi­cult choice, the taonga chose them­selves with their sto­ries.

The ex­hi­bi­tion will in­clude Sir Maui Po­mare’s par­lia­men­tary pass and whale­bone walk­ing stick, a pen­cil etch­ing of Te Pehi’s ta moko, eight mere, ta­iaha be­long­ing to Te Rau­paraha and mus­kets be­long­ing to Te Rangi­hatea and a cloak and a hei tiki be­long­ing to two of just 13 women who signed Wai­tangi.

Smeaton said some of the ob­jects had been in the care of mu­se­ums for years and oth­ers had come from the pri­vate col­lec­tions of Ngati Toa whanau.

As well as ob­jects with his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, the ex­hi­bi­tion group has con­tem­po­rary work and sto­ries, too.

‘‘We wanted ev­ery­body to see them­selves in some way,’’ Smeaton said.

One ex­am­ple is a feather cloak hand­wo­ven by lo­cal teacher and artist Ko­hai Grace and whanau at Hon­goeka Bay. It is made of gifted feath­ers from kakapo, kaka, tui, kiwi, kereru and kakariki.

‘‘We wanted to high­light a tra-



of di­tional prac­tice in a con­tem­po­rary way. To be able to get those types of ma­te­ri­als is very rare.’’

Te Papa’s lead cu­ra­tor on the ex­hi­bi­tion, Awhina Ta­ma­rapa, said the key point of dif­fer­ence with this iwi ex­hi­bi­tion was the au­dio vi­su­als that had been de­vel­oped with iwi mem­bers, as well as the sig­nif­i­cant taonga be­long­ing to the iwi.

Whiti Te Ra: The Story of Ngati Toa Ran­gatira,

Ngati Mod­ern model: Toi kaiti­aki Karanga Metekingi mod­els the con­tem­po­rary cloak wo­ven by whanau from gifted feath­ers.

Pride of place: The mere pounamu named Tuhi­wai, a peace of­fer­ing from Ngai Tahu af­ter wars in the early 1800s.

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