Time for Tea: The Much-loved Cuppa

Our new exhibition opening today, “Time for Tea: the much-loved cuppa” explores New Zealander’s love affair with tea. While we may now be a nation of primarily coffee drinkers, our relationship with tea has a much deeper history. For centuries, Māori have been steeping leaves or roots of certain plants to make infusions for wellbeing. After the arrival of Europeans, Māori accommodated the ritual of providing hot tea when hosting Pākehā, and today every marae has one or more large canteen style teapots.

Tea has been such a pervasive part of our heritage that an 1895 Hawke’s Bay Herald article claimed, “nowhere in the world is so much tea consumed as in New Zealand.” A vital part of daily living, tea was the first thing offered to a guest upon arrival. Many homes boasted a china cabinet to display their best and most treasured fine china; for use only with guests.

Entirely sourced from the collection, this exhibition effectively opens up the museum’s china cabinet and brings out a range of teapots, cups, saucers, plates and other accoutrements for the making and serving of tea. On display are the trappings required for a successful Victorian afternoon tea with all the elegance and ritual that entailed. More amusing items such as ‘moustache cups’ show the interior shelf that was developed to prevent wax from moustaches melting and dripping into the hot drink.

Souvenir items showing scenes of Hastings and Napier are on display alongside examples of Art Deco tea sets and chinaware. One cup, of which we have two examples, shows Emerson Street, Napier immediately following the earthquake on one side and on the opposite side shows the scene following the rebuild. We would love to know if anyone in the community has examples of souvenir china showing scenes from other areas within wider Hawke’s Bay.

At eye level for children, three miniature china tea sets are displayed to view and enjoy. These reminisce back to a time when make-believe tea parties were a regular feature of childhood. With teddy bears and dolls, children could hold court and host their own tea party presiding over the teapot.

On the mezzanine floor upstairs, the Nelson Gallery provides a wonderful light-filled space but is challenging in terms of protecting objects from light and heat. However ceramics and metal are unaffected in this environment and we’re sure the public will enjoy the opportunity to see these beautiful, and sometimes quirky, objects in the clear natural light.

In our shop we have sourced a great range of books on tea along with Annette Bull mugs, beakers and milk jugs made using sand from Clive beach. All of which are beautiful as a treat for yourself but would also make fabulous gifts.

From the elegant rituals of Victorian tea through to rough and ready bush tea from a billy, this exhibition displays a variety of beautiful, utilitarian and odd items that were used in the preparation and drinking of tea. Every time I look at this collection of objects I develop a new favourite – my current is a tall rectangular teapot from Japan; clearly not made for a large party. We hope you’ll come in and enjoy this glimpse into New Zealand’s history and relationship with, what was once, our national drink; tea!

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 25 March 2017


Sea Walls a great festival

Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans is returning to Napier this week, following on from the huge success of this festival last year. It’s great to see this festival back again and this year MTG Hawke’s Bay Museum is getting onboard. The artworks created during Sea Walls share messages about critical ocean issues while also adding life and colour to our city and surrounds. Last year 29 artworks were created and this year a further 20 will be added. They certainly provide vibrancy and a focus to enjoy, ponder and discover as you walk around the city.

The museum has a perfect canvas for such a mural (a long blank wall), at the far end of our building on Browning Street. Russian artist, Rustam Qbic, was selected to create a mural in this space. Rustam is known for creating a “playful sense of the absurd” and there certainly is a delightful whimsical quality to the concept drawing provided. Cinzah Merkens, the local coordinator of Sea Walls said Rustam’s work is “about harmony and unity of humans interacting within their environment and the oceans marine life. Children working symbiotically with sea creatures such as the whale featured to take on a common cause, cleaning the world around them to build a brighter and better new world and future for the generations to come.”

We also checked in with our neighbours who will face the work and are delighted that when we showed them the concept drawing they loved it. We’re very pleased to be able to provide a better view than the plain blank wall they currently face and they will have the perfect vantage point to watch as this work evolves. Obviously we don’t want to give too much away but from Cinzah’s description above you will know that the artwork involves children and a whale. Rustam starts work on Monday so do come watch this artwork come to life and take the opportunity to talk with Rustam about the work.

Like the fabulous Tiffany Singh ‘Colours of Light’ art installation that was at the front of the museum for a month, we want to keep providing different and fresh concepts over time. For that reason this will not be a permanent artwork and will have a fixed timespan – in this case twelve months. While we have not decided what will follow this work, and it may not be anything immediately, there will be new ideas and expressions of art to share in the future.

I’m still occasionally surprised by finding Sea Walls murals I haven’t seen before and am delighted to know that there are more on the way. While we will all have favourites and, maybe not-so-favourites, it is fantastic to see this expression of art and caring about our oceans blossoming throughout the city.

SEA WALLS detail of mural by Cracked Ink, 2016

SEA WALLS detail of mural by Cracked Ink, 2016

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 18 March 2017

Great month for arts, culture and heritage in our region

February was an exceptional month for arts, culture and heritage in Hawke’s Bay, from the 1931 Earthquake and Waitangi Day commemorations, to the Art Deco Festival and the month-long Kahungunu Festival – capped off by the incredible Te Matatini.This month looks to be another busy one for us at the museum, with visiting artist Yuki Kihara coming for three weeks to research and create new artworks, based on the connections between Ngati Kahungunu and her homeland of Samoa.

Yuki is one of New Zealand’s leading ‘interdisciplinary’ artists (she works in a range of media, including photography, video, and performance art) – and remains the only New Zealander, as well as the only artist of Samoan heritage, to have had a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Her interest in Hawke’s Bay was inspired by the narrative that tells how the waka Takitimu was built from ‘the great trees of Rata’s sacred forest’ in Samoa, many generations before carrying the ancestors of Ngati Kahungunu, and many other iwi, to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Over her three-week residency here, Yuki will build on this ancestral link, looking into more recent connections between local Maori and tagata Samoa in areas such as housing, church, school, work and more.

Her visit is particularly well-timed to research the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, which sees up to 9,000 people come to New Zealand annually, from various Pacific Island nations, to work on orchards and vineyards for up to seven months at a time. Each summer, hundreds of Samoan workers come to Hawke’s Bay under the scheme and Yuki is interested in finding out how this effects Samoans both here and back home, along with the impacts on Ngāti Kahungunu, and Hawke’s Bay locals in general.

Yuki will be visiting orchards that take part in the RSE scheme, along with landing sites of the Takitimu, marae with strong ties to the waka, and suburbs with strong Maori and Samoan communities. She is looking forward to speaking with members of these communities, and we welcome anyone with ideas, stories or information relating to this project to share them by getting in touch with the museum.

Members of the public are also most welcome to the mihimihi to be held at the museum on the morning of Yuki’s arrival (Monday 13th). This will be followed by morning tea, a talk from Yuki about her art practice and the aims of her time in Hawke’s Bay, and a chance for discussion amongst those present. Contact the museum for more details if you would like to attend.

The result of the residency will be a new series of photographic artworks, which will be presented as part of Yuki’s solo exhibition at MTG in December this year.


Yuki Kihara: Photograph titled ‘After Tsunami Galu Afi, Lalomanu,’ 2013

Jessica Mio – Curator of Art, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 4 March 2017

Festival challenge but awesome experience

I love Te Matatini, I love everything about it; the mobilisation in the lead-up to the festival, the atmosphere, the food, the fashion, and for one week, a total immersion in Maori culture.  As the host tribe, Ngati Kahungunu has really stepped to the fore and at an auspicious time like this, we revert to the persona of our eponymous ancestor, the man Kahungunu himself.  Kahungunu the generous, Kahungunu the shrewd, Kahungunu the handsome chief we all descend from.

Certainly in my lifetime there have been many times where I have been proud to be Ngati Kahungunu, and while on the whole I am proud to belong to a great tribe, this month has to be the most special so far.

It is an honour to host Te Matatini, yet it is also a burden that could magnify or diminish tribal mana dependant on how other tribes perceive Ngati Kahungunu’s ability to host the thousands of people who come to see the greatest kapa haka show in the world.  Ngati Kahungunu and indeed all of Hawke’s Bay can be proud for what has been collaboratively achieved together.

The festival started with the traditional pohiri and the gathering of Ngati Kahungunu from Wairarapa to the south and Wairoa to the north.  Our people united to show a force that represents us all.  Starting with the sounding of the pukaea (trumpet) in a greeting to the four winds the pohiri commenced with the great welcome haka booming out the names of the eponymous ancestors Tamatea, Rongokako, Kahungunu and of course that great waka that connects us all, Takitimu!  These are not just words that we yell out, however are affirmations of who we are as a people, and a signal to those who have arrived that they are in a new territory and we are the tangata whenua.

Following the haka pohiri, speeches of welcome were given from Piri Prentice on behalf of the people of Napier, followed by Sir Pita Sharples on behalf of Ngati Kahungunu.  The speaking rod was then handed to the visitors who had thirteen speakers representing their various regions.

The culmination of this hullabaloo is the sharing of kai, and this is where the logistical prowess of our people is at its height.  Food is what underpins hospitality and it is noticeable that the pakeha people of Hawke’s Bay have shown there support and generosity through the contrition of tonnes of fresh produce, poultry and meat and thousands of tubs of Rush Munro’s Ice Cream.  Kahungunu divers have been active all along the coast of Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa collecting seafood in its many forms.

There have been mountains of corn, apples, pumpkins, onions and potatoes stored away and distributed to all marae around Hawkes Bay who are hosting kapa haka teams and as a whole region we have shown that we can feed the hearts, feed the puku and feed the people, we are truly Kahungunu the generous!

While kapa haka is a performing artform, we must also acknowledge the visual artists of Kahungunu who have been beavering away in their studios preparing art to dress Kahungunu Park and also to fill our galleries with Kahungunu artworks, contributing to the wider Kahungunu story of diversity through the arts.  From flags in the street to art in the galleries, we are certainly visible here in our homeland.

Yet mana does not rest with Ngati Kahungunu alone, it is the responsibility of us all to show hospitality and respect to our visitors.  So if you are in the street this weekend and you see some of the haka teams around, give them a smile and a wave and shout out the words Haere Mai! Welcome to Hawke’s Bay!  Welcome to Ngati Kahungunu!  Tatou Tatou E!


Free apples by the binful, at the entrance to Te Matatini, courtesy of John Bostock. 


Charles Ropitini – Strategic Maori Advisor, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 25 February 2017