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Taonga on display throughout Auckland

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As Matariki passes, Auckland galleries are embracing traditional and contemporary taonga like never before with exhibitions simultaneously running at Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Museum and…

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As Matariki passes, Auckland galleries are embracing traditional and contemporary taonga like never before with exhibitions simultaneously running at Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Museum and Objectspace.

Image: John Miller Artists' exhibition Te kaha-nui-a-tiki District High School, Te Kaha. Dr Doug Sinclair demonstrates traditional drilling techniques. June 1973, 2001. Gelatin silver print toned with gold, from the exhibition Te Hei TikiAs Matariki passes, Auckland galleries are embracing traditional and contemporary taonga like never before with exhibitions simultaneously running at Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Museum and Objectspace.

Image: John Miller Artists' exhibition Te kaha-nui-a-tiki District High School, Te Kaha. Dr Doug Sinclair demonstrates traditional drilling techniques. June 1973, 2001. Gelatin silver print toned with gold, from the exhibition Te Hei TikiOpening this weekend, Objectspace has two exhibitions; Ornaments for the Paakehaa, jewellery by Jason Hall which explores issues of identity in Aotearoa, and The Mick Pendergrast Collection of Tiki. These works are from the private collection of well known curator and writer Mick Pendergrast and demonstrate the potency of the tiki as a symbol of New Zealand identity.

A tiki tour of our heritage - NZ Herald

Auckland Art Gallery has Te Hei Tiki, which brings together works ranging from traditional taonga to contemporary representations of hei tiki, Maori portraits by Gottfried Lindauer to a painted mural by Arnold Wilson. Sometimes contentious, frequently identity affirming the exhibition will explore the enduring history of hei tiki.

Te Hei Tiki will retell stories from oral and documented histories explaining how hei tiki were made and for whom. Hei tiki are highly valued taonga, not only for their materiality, but also for the connections they make across generations and the tribal histories they continue to evoke.

From the time of early encounters with explorers hei tiki have been of interest to Europeans; Captain Cook's artists depicted them and they quickly became sought after by explorers and collectors. Subsequent generations working within the western art tradition have represented hei tiki in a diverse range of media and from distinct perspectives. It will also consider the role of popular culture in our twenty-first century understanding of hei tiki.

At the Auckland Museum is Ko Tawa, an exhibition of taonga from our ancestral landscapes, from the collection of Captain Gilbert Mair.

In his lifetime Captain Gilbert Mair (1843 €” 1923) was presented with many taonga €” ancestral treasures €” by Maori communities throughout the North Island. Mair, also known as Tawa, accepted these taonga understanding the obligations they represented, dedicating his later life to assisting Maori to overcome the effects of colonisation. Ko Tawa celebrates the taonga passed into Mair's keeping, which today is integral to Auckland Museum Maori Collection, and is at the heart of the Museum's Matariki celebrations.

Having grown up amongst Maori, Mair understood the importance of receiving such gifts. Unlike other collectors of the time he ensured the associated narratives remained attached to the taonga after he passed them into the safe-keeping of Auckland Museum in 1890. This collection stands out from any other Maori art collection in the world because the narratives associated with the taonga at the time of presentation have survived.

Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu - The cloak of pain of Pareraututu, is one of the taonga on display. This cloak was made by Pareraututu, she made it to honour the deaths of her people who were killed by Tuhoe in the battle of Pukekaikahu.

Pareraututu was part Tuhoe herself and was grief-stricken when she learnt that her relatives had killed many of her Rangitihi menfolk. In her grief, Pareraututu collected together all of the dogs that had belonged to the fallen chiefs and wove their skins into this 'cloak of pain'.

Pareraututu then travelled to the Waikato to plead for revenge with the renowned fighting leader, Tukorehu. Her method of persuasion used no words. She sat silently upon Tukorehu's marae for days, wrapped in the cloak and refusing to eat. Eventually Tukorehu's heart was so moved that he accepted Pareraututu's request by lifting the cloak from her shoulders and placing it upon his own.

Soon after, Tuhoe was persuaded to return the heads of Ngati Rangitihi's fallen chiefs and through marriages a new and lasting peace eventuated.

Many years later when Pareraututu died, her bones were placed, along with many of her Ngati Rangitihi ancestors, upon Wahanga. On 10 June 1886 the Tarawera eruption scattered their remains to the four winds. Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu €” the Cloak of Pain of Pareraututu - is their memorial.

The narrative of Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu was preserved by Gilbert Mair, who received her while on Crown business in 1875.

The Ko Tawa exhibition is curated by Dr Paul Tapsell, Tumuaki (Director Maori) of Auckland Museum. Dr Tapsell is recognised internationally as an expert on the Mair collection and will be releasing his book Ko Tawa later in the year.

Ko Tawa exhibits a selection of 28 taonga selected from Mair's collection of over 230 taonga, each with a unique story to tell, intimately linking today's descendants to ancestral landscapes as remembered, treasured and then presented by their nineteenth century elders.

Ornaments for the Paakehaa is on show at Objectspace from 18 June - 16 July.

Ko Tawa is at the Auckland Museum from 11 June - 28 August.

Te Hei Tiki is at the New Galllery from 11 June - 4 September 2005