Social history to the fore at MTG

With artist Yuki Kihara’s exhibition now over and the next art installation another month away, social history has come to the fore at MTG. And yet, art continues to enrich spaces throughout the museum.

Catching the light in the front foyer is Israel Birch’s work ‘Tai Aroha.’ Working with stainless steel pigmented with rich shades of blue, Birch has ground and etched fluid patterns that shimmer all over the surface, creating the effect of flowing water. Birch describes his technique as a new form of carving, where “carving is about the shaping of light.” His work is placed just around the corner from a poutokomanawa (carved ancestral figure) of Birch’s ancestor Te Kāuru o Te Rangi, who has long been a source of inspiration for him.

‘Tai Aroha’ will remain in place for another month before the entire wall that it hangs on becomes a platform for the artwork of Natalie Robertson. We are pleased to host Natalie’s project as part of Hastings City Art Gallery’s biennial ‘EAST’ exhibition, which is extending beyond the gallery’s walls for the first time this year to become a region-wide event.

Artist George Nuku will create collaborative art displays at both institutions in the form of installations titled ‘Bottled River’ and ‘Bottled Ocean’: addressing the degradation of fresh and salt water respectively.

Meanwhile, recent additions within the exhibition ‘Tēnei Tonu’ include an assemblage of five diverse artworks. A painting by renowned weaver Toi Te Rito Maihi of methodically woven harakeke, stylised into perfect precision, hangs above works by Joan Trollope, Para Matchitt, Gary Waldrom, and Jacob Scott. These collection pieces were chosen for their connections to Ngāti Kahungunu, either through the artists’ whakapapa or the subjects shown in the work.

Trollope’s painting of ‘Tomato Pickers’ is particularly intriguing, as we know the least about the artist and her work. She painted this evocative scene in a rustic cubist style, using quick brushstrokes to sketch out solid figures working in the heat of a Hawke’s Bay summer. But if she was painting from a real scene, whereabouts is it, and who are the people depicted? And who was Joan Trollope? The only information on the artwork’s museum record is her lifetime dates (1914-1996), and an estimation of 1959 for the date of the painting. She contributed a landscape work to an outdoor exhibition shown in both Hastings and Napier in 1960. The only other mention of her I can find is in a programme for the 1964 exhibition of ‘The Group’ in Christchurch, which included five paintings by Trollope along with works by Angus, McCahon, Lusk, Henderson, Woollaston, Binney and many more leading figures in Pākehā art of the time. It would be wonderful to hear from anyone who knows more about Joan Trollope or of other works of hers that must be hanging on walls somewhere.

  • CMNZ Presents: Heath Quartet. Thrilling audiences with their dynamic and charismatic performances, the Heath Quartet are one of Britain’s most exciting chamber ensembles. Century Theatre, Sunday 24 June, 5:00pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

16 June 2018

Image caption: OBSCURE ARTIST: ‘Tomato Pickers’ by Joan Trollope, painted circa 1959.

Jess Mio, Curator – Art

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 16th June 2018



Nyree Dawn Porter Exhibition extended due to popular demand

This week the team have been busy de-installing the Yuki Kihara: Te Taenga Mai o Salome exhibition. Weaving together Sāmoan, Māori and Pākehā histories, this exhibition received a special mention at the Museum Aotearoa Awards last month. I hope many of you had the opportunity to see the artworks before the exhibition closed.

As one display comes down, another takes its place. Preparation work is well underway for our next exhibition, ‘House of Webb: A Victorian family’s journey to Ormondville’, exploring the experiences and stories of the Webb family as they travelled from England and settled in Ormondville, near Norsewood, in 1884. This exhibition provides an opportunity to share different stories from around the region and bring out a new selection of objects from storage, including a number of archival items from the Webb collection.

We’ve also recently decided to extend ‘Nyree Dawn Porter: From Local Stage to Global Stardom’ due to popular demand from locals and travellers alike. We knew the Nyree story was a relevant and interesting one to share but have been pleasantly surprised by the level of positive feedback, showing the high esteem in which Nyree is held. The exhibition will now stay open until January 2019, so there’s plenty of time to ensure everyone has a chance to enjoy the display.

There’s only another month to see ‘He Manu Tīoriori: Songbirds’ however, with this exhibition set to close on 22 July. This object-rich and visually impressive display recently won a Museums Aotearoa Award for Exhibition Excellence – Taonga Māori. Sharing 100 years of Ngāti Kahungunu’s rich heritage of music composition and performance, there’s still time to come in and explore this exhibition.

Replacing ‘He Manu Tīoriori’ will be a new contemporary art display with artist George Nuku, of Omahu marae. George’s exhibition ‘Bottled Ocean 2118’ images a future world where seas cover the Earth’s surface and marine life has mutated into alien, plastic forms. Working with school groups and the general public, George will create new artworks out of used plastic over the course of two weeks. These will then be displayed alongside pre-existing works; utilising light, moving image and sound to create an immersive experience.

At the same time, our talented team are also working on a new Art Deco exhibition to replace ‘Time for Tea: the much loved cuppa,’ which closes in October. We were originally going to replace this with an exhibition on silverware but have decided to save this one for a later date. Some work is about to start in the front foyer as well and you may get to see some new art appear soon – watch this space.

Exhibitions are probably the most well-known part of what museums do – it’s not just the exhibitions we put on but also how we develop them that’s important. Displays that have been developed collaboratively with the community are always more satisfying and have longer reaching outcomes than those which are solely developed in-house. We’re always looking and thinking about how we can engage our community, and we continue to welcome your feedback and suggestions, so please do share your thoughts.

Nyree photos - Carine (4)

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 9th June 2018

Excitement as MTG Hawke’s Bay’s digital learning programme nears

We’re really excited about the new digital learning programme we’ll be offering at MTG Hawke’s Bay in the coming months. We were delighted to be invited to partner with Te Papa, Auckland Museum and the Waitangi National Trust to roll-out a Digital Equity for All learning programme.

Called Raranga Matihiko – Weaving Digital Futures, this programme aims at increasing access to digital technology among students in lower decile schools. Digital fluency is a critical factor for truly participating in contemporary society and it’s great to see initiatives such as this that will ensure more students have access to these opportunities. Partnering with Te Papa means we have access to a proven programme they have already developed and tested. The programme will be adapted to the needs and desired learning outcomes of schools in our region, utilising our unique collections and exhibitions. Along with this partnership comes a range of digital equipment and ongoing support and guidance from Te Papa’s expert team of museum educators.

One of the most exciting parts of this programme is that it will support and foster engagement with schools and kura kaupapa in the region that we don’t currently work with. Providing access to the region’s collection and education programmes is a key driver for us and we’re pleased to have a new programme that will extend our reach. This programme will also enhance our relationship with our national museum and may lead to further interactions, exchanges and partnership opportunities in the future.

For our educators this new programme adds to the range of learning experiences we already provide, especially in the digital space. One of the recent programmes we’ve added which has proved very popular with schools is the Quake ’31 lesson. Students take on the role of reporter, researching the earthquake through the exhibition, archives and other material. They then develop a news broadcast which is filmed in front of a green screen – later adding video content in the background. This provides an opportunity for students to learn about the Hawke’s Bay earthquake as well as digital and film technology.

Another programme that is exceptionally popular is our annual Matariki lessons – this year focusing on poi work. Starting in our exhibitions students see kapa haka, traditional poi made from raupo and flax, and historic footage of some stunning poi performances. We’ve partnered with Kahurangi Māori Dance Theatre to teach students waiata and kanikani (dance moves). Students then develop their own poi dance, supported by performers from the Kahurangai Māori Dance Theatre. You can get a taste of this talented dance group in the welcome video, which runs on continuous loop in our Tēnei Tonu gallery.

Matariki is an important period in the calendar for Māori, heralding the start of a new year. Traditionally this was a time for remembering tipuna and celebrating new life. Matariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as Pleiades. There are many ways to celebrate the Māori New Year around the region, but why not kickstart the festivities with a visit to MTG Hawke’s Bay.

photorapher David Frost

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 2nd June 2018


Team celebrates award success

This week the team at MTG Hawke’s Bay are celebrating winning the Museums Aotearoa award for Exhibition Excellence – Taonga Māori, for our exhibition ‘He Manu Tīoriori: Songbirds’. On display until 22 July, the exhibition provides a glimpse into Ngāti Kahungunu’s rich musical talent, looking back at 100 years of singers, songwriters, kapa haka, jazz bands and more.

It takes many people to make exhibitions and this was no exception. Initially curated by Tryphena Cracknell, who formulated and developed the concept, it was then completed by Charles Ropitini. Determining themes, sections and objects was followed by the work of design, loan arrangements, object preparation and mount making. All these elements came together to make a great exhibition.

And once open, our customer service team, educators, volunteers and events staff come to the fore, bringing the experience to life for our visitors. Any success we have is truly a team effort and achievement.

This exhibition, like so many others, reminds us of the importance of understanding and knowing our heritage – which is often thought to be ‘behind’ us, distinct from present and future. And yet, how can the past be behind us, when it’s the only thing we can see, the sole source of all knowledge? It must instead be in front of us, as we move backwards into the unwritten, unseeable future.

In this way, the lives of ancestors are not really separate from the present, but are continually acting as guides as we create the future, helping us to avoid repeating erroneous ways and to follow the tried and true.

The MTG team celebrated once such guide this week, as 22 May marked the 150th birthday of Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia, of Te Rarawa. By the age of 25, Meri was a leading activist for the rights of all Māori and all women in Aotearoa. While an influential part of the suffragist movement that petitioned the colonial Government for women’s right to vote, she also argued in an impassioned speech in 1893 that women should be allowed to both vote for, and stand as members of, the Kotahitanga parliament. Referring to Māori appeals to Queen Victoria regarding the Crown’s failure to honour Te Tiriti of Waitangi, Meri pointed out that “there have been many male leaders who have petitioned the Queen concerning the many issues that affect us all, however, we have not yet been adequately compensated according to those petitions. […] Perhaps the Queen may listen to the petitions if they are presented by her Māori sisters, since she is a woman as well.”

As an advocate of mana wahine, Meri was countering not only the sexism but also the racism inherent in the colonial Government. While 125 years later, many are celebrating the anniversary of women winning the right to vote in the New Zealand Westminster system, the work of overcoming both racism and sexism remains far from over. I wonder how different things would be if Meri’s Pākehā sisters had supported her movement, just as she had supported theirs. What if all women had committed to upholding the self-determination and land rights of all Māori, as guaranteed by Te Tiriti? How much more flourishing and resilient would our communities be today? This is how Meri continues to guide us into the future. When we think about how to make a more just society, she shows the way forward: a holistic approach that leaves nothing and no one behind, for the prosperity of all.

Image_26 May 2018

Image caption: Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia (Te Rarawa), renowned for her speech to the Kotahitanga parliament, Waipatu marae, Heretaunga in 1893.

Photo courtesy of Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira.

Jess Mio – Art Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 26th May 2018

MTG keeps up its run as finalist in awards

For five years in a row MTG Hawke’s Bay has been a finalist in the Museums Aotearoa Awards. This year two exhibitions have made it into the finals, with a third getting a special mention from the judges. Museums Aotearoa is the national association for museums and art galleries in New Zealand so being a finalist (of three or four in each category) is a real honour.

Tuturu is a finalist for the art exhibition excellence award. Two ex-MTG staff members, Dena Bach and Tryphena Cracknell developed this exhibition in collaboration with Iwi Toi Kahungunu, led by Sandy Adsett. Showcasing Ngati Kahungunu artists, this display transformed our Linkway Gallery into a jewel-coloured passage as a backdrop to a range of stunning artworks. I note this week that Sandy has been given an honorary doctorate in fine art and congratulate him on this well-deserved recognition. Having already won awards for best installation and then the overall supreme award in the prestigious Resene Total Colour Awards, this exhibition has already captured national attention.

He Manu Tioriori: Songbirds celebrates and explores 100 years of Ngati Kahungunu’s love affair with music. The seeds of this exhibition began with Tryphena Cracknell and was finalised by Charles Ropitini. He Manu Tioriori is a finalist in the Taonga Maori exhibition category. A third exhibition, Yuki Kihara: Te Taenga Mai o Salome, did not make it into the finals but was given a special mention by the judges in the art category.

While Tuturu is no longer on display, the other two exhibitions are still available to view – Te Taenga Mai o Salome until 5 June and He Manu Tioriori until 22 July.

Having been a finalist (and occasional winner) every year for the past five years is a tremendous achievement. It certainly shows that the team here at MTG, both past and present, have the dedication, passion and talents to ensure we remain at the top of our field as a regional museum. A key feature of many of our projects that have made it as a finalist is the collaborative nature of their development. Working with others creates compelling exhibitions and programmes that are being noticed and recognised nationally.

The winners will be announced tomorrow, 20 May, at Christchurch Art Gallery and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed to see if we win one of the categories. Regardless of whether we win or not, I’m really proud of the team at MTG and hope our community is too.

  • The Villani Piano Quartet shares an exciting programme of romantic music. Century Theatre, Sunday 20 May, 4:00pm. Tickets available from Ticketek
  • Chamber Music New Zealand present Bianca Andrew & Stroma. Century Theatre, Thursday 24 May, 7:30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek
  • The Music of Leonard Cohen, Century Theatre, Saturday 26 May, 7:30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek

Tuturu - Finalist for Exhibition Excellence - Art

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 19th May 2018

Diary an intimate look at brothers’ 1850’s life

Diaries provide the reader with a valuable window into the past. Usually written in plain language, the writer often gives lively, fresh and intimate details about life. So much can be glimpsed within the closely written pages: hopes, worries, hardships, loves, losses and more.

In the Museum’s archive is a diary plainly titled: “The Illustrated Diary or Life in the Bush New Zealand” by brothers Alfred and Frederick Chapman. During June to November 1854, Frederick Chapman kept this diary while his brother Alfred, whose non-de-plume was ‘Alfred Steelpen’, illustrated it with pen and ink sketches.

In 1851, Alfred Chapman, Joseph Rhodes and William Rhodes applied for and obtained 25,000 acres of land east of Otane, which they named Edenham. The three men stocked the station with 1000 sheep, and Alfred, with the help of his brother Frederick, broke in and managed the property

Frederick’s talents lay in animal husbandry and music. His main occupation was caring for and checking the whereabouts of the stock, which were continually disappearing because of the lack of fencing and density of bush. Wild pigs and dogs, not averse to killing newly born animals and weaker stock, presented an even greater problem. On one occasion nine sheep were found drowned in a creek which Frederick surmised had been ‘rushed in by a wild dog.’ Almost daily Frederick went hunting for pigs carrying ‘the young fat ones fit for meat’ back to the homestead while the older carcasses, used for dog meat, he retrieved at a later date. The warmth of Frederick’s words gives a telling picture of his close affinity with animals: including his faithful horse Nobs, the rooster he regretfully had to kill because ‘the pig bit it’, and in particular his dog Polly who died after giving birth. He was often called upon to act as a veterinary surgeon, having to bleed a ‘sheep bad with tictic’, and lancing the ‘swelled head & purse’ of a sheep from which ‘nearly a pint of liquor’ oozed.

His brother Alfred was an extremely talented artist, engineer and builder. He designed and constructed farm implements and tools such as sheep skin whips, pack saddles and dog kennels. Alfred’s engineering skills were evident in his design of a flour-mill: the building of it was a joint contribution but it was Alfred who thatched the roof and erected a ‘flag staff up by the mill house, with a wind teller on the top.’ The mill initially floundered because the sails were not large enough: undaunted by failure, Alfred merely enlarged and re-hemmed the sails and altered the plan of the mill by ‘putting the sails on the mill itself.

Music was an important part of the brother’s daily lives. Both were competent at playing wind instruments: Frederick the cornopean or cornet, and Alfred the flute.  Frederick expressed this love for music when he described the excitement of collecting his cornet from Ahuriri, and ‘was much delighted to find the cornopean was such a good one.’ Later that evening ‘he played a few tunes on the cornet for the first time.’ He would practice whenever he could: ‘milked the cows, & went after the sheep, took my cornopean with me to hear the echo on the hills.’

Reading the Chapman diary and admiring the sketches allow you to experience an intimate glimpse into the rich tapestry of Frederick and Alfred’s daily lives; how they lived together; how they spent their leisure hours and how they successfully managed and broke in the Edenham farm property.

  • NZ Sign Language Taster Classes – Saturday 12th May
    9:30am – children under 13 years
    11:00am – adults (13+)
    Spaces are limited to 30 people per class, please RSVP to
  • Sign-interpreted Floor Talk – Saturday 12th May – 1:00pm to 3:00pm
    • Suitable for families. Please meet in the MTG Main Foyer.
      Free poi-making workshop following the talk

Diary_12 May 2018

Gail Pope – Curator Social History, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 12th May 2018

Music, Sound, Video make museum come excitingly alive

Music, sound and video are one of the many ways we bring the museum to life. The beautifully acoustic Century Theatre plays a key role as a venue for live music, and currently Chamber Music New Zealand’s 2018 concert season in the theatre is well underway. There’s still an opportunity to experience the resonance and tone of beautifully-played music in the Century Theatre with four more performances in the concert season to go: 24 May, 24 June, 16 August and 7 October. I can highly recommend attending a performance if you can fit it into your calendar.

We also have live music outside the theatre, with a team of dedicated volunteers who come in and play our piano within the gallery spaces. Just last night someone told me they had visited the museum recently and particularly loved hearing the piano played as they looked through the displays.

Throughout the majority of our galleries we’ve some form of music or film. In Tenei Tonu performers from Kahurangi Maori Dance along with Rakei Ngaia welcome visitors to the gallery. This video, projected on a large scale, gives a real sense of experiencing a powhiri in person, with wero and waiata drawing you in.

I’m personally drawn to the beautiful and mesmerising video works in Yuki Kihara’s exhibition Te Taenga Mai O Salome. These works are not only visually stunning but speak to much deeper content. For example one work, simply featuring Yuki’s hands, shows the rhythm and build-up of the 2009 tsunami that hit Samoa.

The Survivors Stories film in the 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake gallery continues to be a favourite with visitors – really helping to provide a sense of the experience through firsthand accounts. In Steadfast Steamers: Models of Hawke’s Bay Shipping there’s some fascinating historical footage from the early 20th century. Many visitors are telling us they love watching episodes from The Forsyte Saga in our Nyree Dawn Porter: From Local Stage to Global Stardom exhibition.

Hei Manu Tioriori: Songbirds is entirely about music, sound and video. This popular exhibition explores 100 years of Ngati Kahungunu’s love of music. With a number of soundtracks to listen to, memorabilia, instruments, images and video this exhibition is a rich treasure trove of music that invites you to explore.

We’re currently in the middle of Hearing Awareness week, 3 – 9 May and Sign Language Week is 7 – 13 May. The focus for Hearing Awareness week this year is noise-induced hearing loss. Exposure to prolonged loud noises damages our hearing – with no pain and often no conscious awareness. Power tools and loud music are key causes and the advice is to wear ear protection and limit exposure.

Today we’re hosting a gallery tour for Hawke’s Bay families of deaf children, who have specifically asked for a tour of Hei Manu Tioriori as the vibrations, video content and interactive musical instrument wall works well for these children. Next weekend on Saturday 12 May we have New Zealand Sign Language taster classes available for everyone to try a free 45 minute class.

There are opportunities for all to enjoy the sights and sounds within the museum.

  • New Zealand Sign Language Class, Saturday 12 May, 9:30am for children under 13, 11:00 for adults and children 13+. Spaces are limited – please book through MTG ph 835 7781
  • Chamber Music New Zealand present Bianca Andrew & Stroma, Thursday 24 May, 7:30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek
  • The Music of Leonard Cohen, Saturday 26 May, 7:30pm. Tickets available from Ticketek

photorapher David Frost

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today, 05th May 2018