Saturday, February 20, 2010

Te Hokinga Mai - The Journey Home

At dawn this morning, the doors of the Robert McDougall Gallery at Canterbury Museum opened and Ngai Tahu whanau and invited dignatories made there way inside, in quiet procession, for the blessing of the taonga (treasures) that lay within. Te Kokinga Mai is a beautiful exhibition of Ngai Tahu taonga in two parts. It features the return home of Mo Tatou, the Ngai Tahu whanui exhibition that has been on display at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand for the last three years; and Mo Ka Uri: Ngai Tahu taonga from Canterbury Museum.

A crowd of 300-400 gathered for the early morning occasion and after a rousing welcome and whakanoa (blessing) by resident Ngai Tahu hapu, Ngai Tuahuriri we made our way inside. For most of us, it was a brief encounter -either a first time look, or a chance to welcome back the treasures that have been viewed by over 850,000 people at Te Papa over the last three years. It's a stunning show - beautifully conceived, with some wonderfully intricate shadows cast across the gallery walls. Each of the taonga is accompanied by a sprig of kawakawa leaves (as above) - this to represent the mauri or life force, the wairua or spirit of the treasures.
Mark Solomon, Kaiwhakahaere, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu (left) and Kukupa Tirakatene (right) meeting manuhiri (guests) outside the gallery.
As Mark Solomon writes in the exhibition catalogue: "Mo Tatou: The Ngai Tahu Whanui Exhibition endeavours to reflect our values, traditions and aspirations as an iwi (tribe).....The exhibition tells us where we have come from, how we lived, who we were and who we are...." Now, after its highly successful showing at Te Papa, the exhibition has come home for the first part of its journey throughout Te Waipounamu (the South Island), where it will be exhibited in Christchurch, Otago and Southland.

The second part of the exhibition, 'Mo Ka Uri,' brings together an astonishing array of taonga from the vaults of Canterbury Museum that have never been shown before. Over 200 beautiful items are showcased - carvings, korowai (cloaks), kete (baskets), pounamu treasures and more. (It should be noted that the korowai shown in these photographs are not from the exhibition but were worn to celebrate the importance of the occasion). I have many more photographs from this morning's event, which I'll feature here over the coming weeks. And if you happen to be in Christchurch, a visit to Te Hokinga Mai is definitely worth your time.

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