Precious Poutokomanawa (carving) Out On Loan

Two weeks ago an important poutokomanawa (carving), titled Te Waaka Perohuka was taken to Gisborne on loan for an exhibition, Ko Rongowhakaata, at Tairawhiti Museum. This Poutokomanawa, carved in the 1860’s, was originally intended for Te Hapuku’s wharenui (house) Kahuranaki I.  On completion, the pou was considered too precious to leave Manutuke and was held back by Chief Otene Pitau.  Te Waaka Perohuka was later gifted to Greacon Black, a Scottish collector of taonga, who settled in Gisborne.

Black amassed a significant taonga collection and on his passing it was handed down to his son, Robert, who wanted to find a home for the collection in perpetuity.  Approaches were made to the Gisborne Council to erect a facility at Manutuke to house the collection, however this never eventuated.

Leo Bestall, founding director of our museum, was an acquaintance of Robert Black and in 1937 Leo negotiated having the collection come to Napier, where it is now part of the Ruawharo Ta-u-rangi (Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust) collection.

Returning this Pou to Rongowhakaata was a significant journey in my second week at the museum. Confirming the special effect taonga play in our lives.  This particular hui provided a rare opportunity for oratory to come to the fore, as stories of Te Waaka Perohuka the Chief were recounted, stories of the pou reaffirmed, and strong connections made between museums, iwi, and descendants of Te Waaka Perohuka and Greacon Black.

So Te Waaka Perohuka returns to serve his people as poutokomanawa do:  the one serves the many and the many serve the one.  This is the value of taonga to Maori people in its raw essence, a uniting force that allows for the oral traditions of our people to be handed from generation to generation.  Our taonga are our tupuna (ancestors).

I’ve no doubt this journey will help shape my thoughts about how we approach our taonga collection.  Igniting a spark of realisation about the importance of our collection being accessible.  One thing is for sure, our stories need to be told.

I’m also reminded of the 30th anniversary of another returning, that of Te Maori, the famous exhibition that travelled the world and returned home.  By all accounts it was an enlightenment for Maori at the time.  It was our taonga that prompted an awakening and flurry of story-telling and engagement of young people with our culture across performing arts, carving, law, education and Te Reo Maori.

For the people at Rongowhakaata, Te Waaka Perohuka achieved the same effect.  So what would the result be if we continued being led by the inspiration of our taonga?  The emerging generation are at risk of being disconnected from whakapapa, from tikanga and ultimately from Te Reo Maori.  Technology is accelerating the disconnect – however, if harnessed, technology can be an avenue for accessibility to our taonga and subsequently the telling of our stories.

With attention diverted to treaty claims and other important subjects, I’m content for now to be within the calm wairua of our tupuna and I look forward to working with our community.

Thelma Karaitiana with Te Waaka Perohuka at Manutuke Marae.  Photo Credit: Pipi Wharauroa

Thelma Karaitiana with Te Waaka Perohuka at Manutuke Marae. Photo Credit: Pipi Wharauroa

Charles Ropitini – Maori Engagement Coordinator, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 10 December 2016



MTG Free Day

Today is our fourth Free Day in the last two years and we’re certainly hoping many of you will come and see what’s new. This Free Day is primarily to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and to share our exhibition ‘A Glimpse of India’ and two Diwali-inspired art installations. Come in under the rainbow and bells of ‘The Colour of Light’, hanging outside the front of the museum, and experience the immersive ‘Indra’s Bow’ at the far end of the building. These three new additions have been the result of discussion with members of the local Indian community, and the perfect opportunity to acknowledge one of the many cultures that make up Hawke’s Bay.

It’s a lovely coincidence that the Diwali Festival is on the same day as the Santa Parade. In recognition of this, we have Santa in the building from 10am until midday for children to visit. There’s also an opportunity for a photo in front of Santa’s sleigh, which will be parked on the forecourt for the morning before it heads off to join the parade.

As usual we have a range of activities for children: they can try their hand at making a lantern, complete our activity trail, enter the colouring competition, or do any of the other activities spread throughout many of our galleries.

Exhibitions and Free Days are just two of the many ways we engage with our communities. Earlier this week we took two taonga, Te Riukāhika and Te Waaka Perohuka, to Manutūkē Marae in Gisborne. Iwi and descendants (both Māori and Pākehā) came together to share stories, knowledge and the history of these taonga – making new connections and reconnections. These taonga will be on display at Tairāwhiti Museum, Gisborne, from 17 December in the iwi-led exhibition ‘Ko Rongowhakaata’.

Also this week the Museum Foundation had a function, with guest speaker Roy Dunningham sharing very interesting history around the evolution of the collection at the museum. In conversation with artists Martin Poppelwell and Ben Pearce, Roy teased out some current views around collections in public institutions, the relationship between artists and galleries, and more. Our relationship with local artists and the Foundation, who help grow and develop the collection, are further examples of community ties we cherish.

This month, staff have started in three new roles that are all very much focused on relationships with our communities and visitors. As mentioned in a previous article, Sarah Stroud is our new Community Programmes and Events staff member. Sarah’s now joined by Kirsten Kelly, our Visitor Engagement Coordinator, who’ll be focused on deeper understanding of our communities and how we can better engage with them, alongside ensuring we consistently deliver excellent customer service. And Charles Ropitini has started in his Māori Engagement role which, as the title suggests, is focused on furthering our relationship with Māori communities, and developing ways to better meet their expectations where we can.

We have a strong desire to continue to develop our connections within Hawke’s Bay. Ultimately we want you to feel that this is truly your place and an institution you’re proud to have as your regional museum.

photorapher David Frost

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 26 November 2016