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

Diverse, collaborative exhibition open

A new exhibition ‘Tuturu’ is open to the public today. This exhibition is a collaboration between the museum and local arts collective Iwi Toi Kahungunu. Iwi Toi was formed in 2015 and one of its aims is to raise the profile of its artists and give them opportunities to exhibit their work publically.

Last year, members of Iwi Toi approached the museum with a proposal to celebrate the artistic talent of Ngati Kahungunu. The aim was to have ‘Tuturu’ open during the Kahungunu Festival and Te Haaro o te Kaahu Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival, when there will a huge influx of visitors hosted by Ngati Kahungunu. This is one of several exhibitions on show over this time, including ‘Iwitoi Kahungunu’ at Hastings City Art Gallery (also a collaboration with the collective), and ‘Taikura Kurupounamu’ at Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, Hastings.

It’s been a great experience to work alongside the group and a real shift from the usual exhibition development process. The majority of exhibitions at the museum are developed in-house. Curators conceptualise exhibition ideas, manage community relationships, research and write; the collections team manage loans and object care; while the design team generate graphic and physical design. In the development of ‘Tuturu’, Iwi Toi has been part of each stage of the decision-making.

Iwi Toi members selected 14 artworks, by Michelle Nicholls, Dena Bach, Miria Pohatu, Michelle Mataira, Marama Ngawhika, Raewyn Paterson, Todd Couper, Israel Birch, Eugene Kara, Hemi Macgregor, Wilray Price, Glen Hauraki, Sandy Adsett and Shanon Hawea. Each artwork is a very personal representation of what is ‘tuturu’: true, authentic, unique, for the artist.

Between the artworks there are tukutuku panels, which will eventually be installed in a wharenui (meeting house) called Te Huki, in Raupunga, northern Hawke’s Bay. These panels connect the artworks and give a unified feel to the exhibition. The tukutuku were woven by Waiariki Kara, Margery Joe, Nellie Adsett, Elizabeth Hunkin, Vilma Hapi, Francis Clark, Tangi Taunoa, Julie Kira, Rene Stuart, Koaea Pene, Maraea Aranui, Jan Huata and Kathleen Miria.

Senior local artist, Sandy Adsett, worked closely with the museum’s design team to determine the exhibition layout, colours and typography. Some of the ‘rules’ a gallery generally follows have been broken. Walls are usually kept plain, with simple background colours; whereas on the walls in ‘Tuturu’ six different colours have been used on individual panels to which the artworks are mounted. With 14 artworks, six panel colours and 14 tukutuku panels the gallery feels rich and vibrant. The viewer is given a deep sense of wairua (spiritual connection) as well as a physical sense of being in a wharenui, full of the stories of a people.

Introductory exhibition text has been co-written with collective member Dena Bach. Each artist has written their own biographical information, as well as a short paragraph about the artwork they’ve contributed. These personal statements allow the audience insight into the artists’ strong connections with whakapapa, iwi, and whenua (genealogy, tribe and the land). Rather than having an objective museum voice, ‘Tuturu’ shares a diversity of perspectives, highlighting both connections and individuality.

During the exhibition opening this morning, Iwi Toi paid tribute to Dame Georgina Kingi, whose contributions to education were acknowledged in the recent New Year Honours.

Working on ‘Tuturu’ was a really lovely way to finish off my time here at MTG, before I head off to join the team at Hastings City Art Gallery in a couple of weeks.

STUNNING DISPLAY Tuturu now showing. Photographer David Frost.

STUNNING DISPLAY Tuturu now showing. Photographer David Frost.

Tryphena Cracknell – Curator of Taonga Maori, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 11 February 2017

It’s not about just putting ‘stuff’ on show

Recently the New Zealand Taxpayer’s Union criticised Councils, museums and art galleries for not showing more of their art collections. When they gathered their statistics, MTG had 3.3% of the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust art collection on display, which in the Union’s view was far too low. Of course the percentage fluctuates as we refresh our exhibitions (it is currently over 11%, largely due to the ‘Out of the Box’ exhibition), but regardless, this is a great opportunity to discuss how collections are accessed and displayed.

If you’ve visited the museum recently and seen the exhibition ‘Out of the Box,’ you’ll know what a floor-to-ceiling wall of paintings looks like (and if you haven’t, cut-out this column for free entry this weekend). While this exhibition is very popular, and one we’re proud of, I’d challenge you to imagine every wall of the museum looking that way, and how overwhelming it would be.

As with everything, there are different views from our audiences about styles of display they like. While most are enjoying the density of art in ‘Out of the Box,’ for some people even just one gallery of that is too much. One particular visitor’s feedback was that the gallery was overly crammed and they couldn’t focus on any one work. For this reason we have different styles of display throughout the building to appeal to a range of preferences.

Furthermore, ‘Out of the Box’ shows approximately 10% of the art collection, so we’d need nine more galleries of the same size to show all the artworks at once – not to mention the social history objects and taonga Maori. Rather than having enormous institutions with static displays, we share what we hold through rotating works on display, letting different items get their ‘moment in the sun’.

Simply displaying our collection is not the purpose of the museum: our role is to tell stories of Hawke’s Bay, sometimes intertwined with stories on a national or international scale. One current exhibition with a strong regional focus, ‘What We Make of It: Hawke’s Bay Sculpture’, features two pieces from the art collection along with works borrowed directly from artists.

This very relevant exhibition would feel incomplete if told solely through our own collection. Meanwhile the hugely popular Lalique exhibition was made up entirely from a private loan, again illustrating what a shame it would be to limit ourselves to only what we hold in the collection.

There’s also the responsibility of stewardship: if all the objects were permanently displayed, they’d deteriorate over time with the constant exposure to light. But the key point is that our job is not just to put ‘stuff’ on display, but rather to create considered exhibitions that tell compelling stories. One of our more recent exhibitions ‘A Glimpse of India’ provided an opportunity to bring items out from the collection which haven’t been seen for some time, in order to tell stories of India, it’s history, and people.

And what about those objects that are currently in storage? They don’t just sit gathering dust – they are accessed by researchers, borrowed by other institutions, visited by family members connected to the item or the donor, and they form the foundation for the development of our future displays and exhibitions.

It’s understandable to think we should just put everything on display, but ultimately that would be short-sighted and irresponsible. It would also be sad to go back to museums where everything was crammed on display and just sat there never changing (which is where dust gathers – not in storage). There’d be nothing new to come and see, no fresh displays, ideas or challenges. But again, balance is required: it is comforting to have some ‘favourites’ to visit and revisit (such as the earthquake exhibition), along with a series of temporary displays. As always, we’re interested to hear from our visitors and appreciate those who give us feedback.

CHANGING DISPLAYS: A Glimpse of India showcases objects from the collection

CHANGING DISPLAYS: A Glimpse of India showcases objects from the collection

Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 21 January 2017

Everyone has important stories and view points to share

The last three weeks have been interesting across the country’s racial landscape and I’ve made some observations about the rhetoric floating through our local rag over this time.  We’ve articles about the naming of Blackhead Beach, or Te Pari-o-Mahu, the Sir Peter Leitch saga and a prolonged dialogue played out through the letters to the editor about Maori language and its use across mainstream media.

I actually thought we were getting past this point as a nation, yet these three topics in quick succession over three weeks is astounding.  Sir Peter Leitch should know better! And the comment by his adviser, Michelle Boag, Queen of PR comparing skin colour with coffee, was ill-advised in my opinion. I’ve never compared myself to coffee – but as a fairer Maori, if I had to describe myself in this way, I would choose cappuccino.  Not only that, one made with beans from Colombia, milk from Takapau, sprinkled with wild cinnamon from Papua New Guinea and an obligatory piece of chocolate made in Australia.  Really?  Time to grow up New Zealand.

Then there’s the language debate.  In all honesty, it still surprises me the volume of letters and texts regarding the use of Maori words, for and against.  It’s noticeable that none of these letters were written by Maori but it’s great to see people passionate about this subject.

Then came the insinuation that Maori people aren’t interested in Maori language so we should throw the baby out with the bath water – further insult to injury.  The reality is that language underpins any culture, it’s the most precious taonga we’ve inherited from our ancestors. It’s our responsibility to keep this taonga alive, to transmit our beliefs and practices to the next generation.  The ever increasing numbers of Pakeha enroling in Maori language classes shows it’s becoming just as important for Pakeha to engage with Maori language and culture – this should be welcomed and encouraged.

Why is this important to me right now?  The answer is simple: it’s our role as your regional museum to promote diversity, champion cultural inclusion and bridge cultural gaps through exhibiting our stories, art and objects from epochs and creeds of this region.

To support this view, I’ve been visiting old Pa (village) sites of Ngati Kahungunu.  These Pa are taonga in themselves, or more specifically, waahi taonga (treasured places).  Being at these sites opens my mind to how we, as Maori, need to take control of our history and tell our stories as we want them to be told.  Our stories are particularly important as the tourism industry continues to grow, and the expectation is that we’ll share these stories with our manuhiri (visitors).

The visit by the behemoth Ovation of the Seas provided the opportunity to engage with passengers who were welcomed by a Pipe Band, not only here, but at every port they had visited so far.  Now I’m not against pipe bands, I’ve even been in one myself, however there are only so many reinditions of Scotland the Brave that one can endure on a leisurely cruise, but to the point, this is not Scotland.  Where are our Kahungunu people and our famed Concert Parties?  It’s time to step up Kahungunu!  Make some noise and be proud. Next month, with Te Matatini, is a busy one for the tribe and we can only hope that it’ll provide the platform for us to continue being visible, accessible and proud after the throngs have gone home and Kahungunu Park returns to being plain old Hawke’s Bay Sports Park. Whether you’re a long black, a latte or a cappacino, at the museum we recognise that everyone has important stories, taonga and points of view to share.


WAAHI TAONGA: Hakikino Pa, Waimarama Photo Credit: HB Tourism with permission from Waimarama Maori Tours

WAAHI TAONGA: Hakikino Pa, Waimarama. Photo Credit: HB Tourism with permission from Waimarama Maori Tours.


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

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 14 December 2016


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