The Journey Home

Curating MTG Hawke’s Bay’s inaugural taonga Māori exhibition Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa has been a personal journey.

I returned to Hawke’s Bay for this position after 11 years in Wellington, studying and teaching, then editing Māori children’s publications.

There have been a new set of challenges working on research for my own iwi. It becomes a personal responsibility to ensure tikanga is respected as well as producing an exhibition that is of interest and inspirational. I have re-established relationships with those I’ve known throughout my childhood, with the intention that their stories are told appropriately and with respect.

I’m fortunate that I had previous networks in Hawke’s Bay before I even started. My mother was known for her work in the local community. Growing up here has been an advantage. The hapū we have been researching like to know someone’s grown up here and offered their time for the community.

When I go out into the community to talk about what we’re doing it is important to establish your hapū connections first. Make time to talk and stay for a cup of tea. The whānau and kaumātua have been really supportive of what have been doing with Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa. They have been on this journey with us.

It’s been a unique process, and I’m glad that MTG management have been really understanding in allowing Kaitiaki Taonga Māori Tryphena Cracknell, Designer Desna Whaanga-Schollum and myself to maintain these relationships appropriately.

The concept of this exhibition came about quite organically and was one of three proposed concepts. Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa seemed relevant for an opening taonga show and an appropriate opening introduction since the previous taonga exhibition Ngā Tukemata had stood for 22 years. Ūkaipō will be renewed after 12 months.

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MTG Hawke’s Bay Curator Taonga Māori Migoto Eria, holds a pou tokomanawa from Tutira. This pou affiliates to Ngāti Hineuru, Ngāti Pāhauwera, Ngāti Tū, Ngāti Kurumōkihi, Ngāti Whakaairi, gifted by Mrs J Archer Absolom, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 75/239

People should expect something different with Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa. The approach is relevant to current audiences, is inclusive and aims to accommodate wider age groups. Our point of difference in terms of taonga exhibitions is to remind people of their identity, upbringing and homeground. That is what Ūkaipō is, regardless of age or ethnicity.

What we would like is for our visitors to see themselves in this show, whether that be seeing photos of themselves when they were kids, or hearing their voices or the voices of their mokopuna. Rather than just seeing a carving, they will hear the descendants speaking about it.

The Waiohiki pou tokomanawa (interior carved ancestral posts) which were at the entrance of Ngā Tukemata are significant and identifiable by local hapū. These pou are included in Ūkaipō as it is important that these taonga are accessible to the iwi and the community.

There are two other significant pou tokomanawa going on display, one from Ahuriri and another from Tutira. I remember the Tutira pou very well. When I was young my whānau and I would come and mihi to this pou who is our tipuna and represents the descedants of Tutira. The pou was found in Lake Tutira in the late 19th Century by Guthrie Smith, and came into the museum collection in the late 1970’s.

These taonga have significant mana, and it’s been important to work the show around them. They have such a presence and people expect to see them. This is what Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa is about – identity and whakapapa. This exhibition allows access to taonga and whakapapa, showcasing local stories, featuring local tipuna.

Ūkaipō – ō tātou whakapapa opens to the public on September 21.

– Migoto Eria, Curator Taonga Maori