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Ko tawa taonga from our ancestral landscape

13 May 2005

ko tawa taonga from our ancestral landscape from the collection of captain gilbert mair 11 june – 28 august

In his lifetime Captain Gilbert Mair (1843 – 1923) was presented with many taonga – ancestral treasures – by Maori communities throughout the North Island. Mair, also known as Tawa, accepted these taonga understanding the obligations they represented, dedicating his later life to assisting Maori to overcome the effects of colonisation. Ko Tawa celebrates the taonga passed into Mair’s keeping, which today is the cornerstone of the Auckland Museum Maori Collection, and is at the heart of the Museum’s Matariki celebrations.

Having grown up amongst Maori, Mair understood the importance of receiving such gifts. Unlike other collectors of the time he ensured the associated narratives remained attached to the taonga after he passed them into the safe-keeping of Auckland Museum in 1890. This collection stands out from any other Maori art collection in the world because the narratives associated with the taonga at the time of presentation have survived.

One particular taonga captures the essence of Mair. Kinikini o Te Kooti (Ngai Tuhoe) is a rare type of rain cape that was presented to him by his long time adversary, Te Kooti whom he chased for some years throughout the central North Island. Neither gained the upper hand on the other. Years later Te Kooti was pardoned, and soon after (12 January 1884) a chance meeting occurred between the two embattled soldiers at Matata. Te Kooti took the initiative by placing his cloak on Mair’s shoulders and said (in Maori), “Although it is too small to keep you warm, may it cloak you with my love.”.

Another taonga tells the story of Tutanekai and Hinemoa. Murirangaranga (Ngati Tutanekai, Ngati Whakaue) is a koauau (flute) made from human bone and named after the priest from whom it was made. This was the flute Tutanekai played from Mokoia Island to guide Hinemoa to him. Murirangaranga was presented with great ceremony to Mair by Ngahuruhuru Pango on Te Papa-i-Ouru marae, Ohinemutu on about 10 July 1870 as thanks for saving Ngati Whakaue from invasion.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Paul Tapsell, Tumuaki (Director Maori) of Auckland Museum. Dr Tapsell is recognised internationally as an expert on the Mair collection and will be releasing his book Ko Tawa later in the year. Dr Tapsell is currently in the United States as an Eisenhower Fellow, and is the first New Zealander to have received this prestigious fellowship in many years. The fellowship identifies men and women of outstanding achievement in mid-career, who are expected to assume positions of influence and gives them the opportunity to enhance their professional capabilities, broaden their contacts and deepen their perspectives

Ko Tawa exhibits a selection of 28 taonga selected from Mair’s collection of 236, each with a unique story to tell, intimately linking today’s descendants to ancestral landscapes as remembered, treasured and then presented by their nineteenth century elders.

Kinekine o Te Kooti Murirangaranga

Notes: Gilbert Mair (1843 – 1923). One of the most prominent Pakeha men of early colonial New Zealand. Mair is best known as a soldier. He commanded the No. 1 Arawa Flying Column, with whom he spent several years in hot pursuit of the elusive Te Kooti. However, Mair was a many-faceted character: he was also a surveyor, land purchase agent, government interpreter, farmer, collector and botanist. He also possessed a knowledge of te reo and tikanga that was unrivalled among Pakeha.

One of the first people to visit Mt Tarawera after the disastrous eruption of 10 June 1886, Gilbert Mair played a significant part in organising relief for victims of the disaster. He was present at Parihaka in 1881, belatedly awarded the New Zealand Cross in 1886, and in 1902 was appointed the first superintendent of the Maori Councils of New Zealand, whose aim was to improve living standards for Maori.

Matariki is the star cluster that heralds the start of the Aotearoa Pacific New Year and usually falls around June. Traditionally Maori have recognised the rise of Matariki as a time to celebrate and prepare for a new year and planting season. Today Matariki has come to symbolise the unique place in which we live and respect for the land.

Auckland Museum will be providing bilingual volunteer hosts for the duration of Ko Tawa to tell the unique stories to our visitors and to help bridge past and present. The treasures of Ko Tawa will be displayed in a purpose designed waka huia (treasure box) in the Museum’s Special Exhibitions Hall. The exhibition will be enhanced with multimedia displays and a commissioned documentary which traces the taonga’s ancestry.

KO TAWA & MATARIKI PUBLIC PROGRAMMES Auckland Museum will be holding a range of public programmes to enhance the exhibition and celebrate Matariki. The full schedule is as follows:

Matariki Decorations & Focus Tuesday 7 June – Wednesday 6 July Matariki facts, decorations and traditional Maori music in the Stevenson Discovery Centre. All day during weekends. Treasures & Tales.

Matariki Colouring Competition Tuesday 7 June – Wednesday 6 July Pick up a colouring competition from the Info Desk to win a cool Matariki wall-chart from Reed Publishing. Info available at Front Desk.

Matariki Kite Making Workshops Sunday 12 June Celebrate Matariki by making a cool kite, followed a test flight outside the Museum. - Junior workshop (ages 4 – 6 years) 10:30am – 11:30am. ($7/$5 for Dinomites) - Senior workshop (ages 7 – 10 years) 10:00am – 11:30am. ($8/$6 for Dinomites) Call (09) 306 7040 to book your place.

Star Mobiles 10 minute activity Sundays 12, 19, 26 June & 3 July, 10am-12pm Make a star mobile. Stevenson Discovery Centre: Treasures & Tales. $2, ($1 Dinomites)

Constellation Decorations 10 minute activity Sundays 12, 19, 26 June & 3 July, 1.30-3pm Colour a clear Matariki constellation to catch the light from your window. Stevenson Discovery Centre: Treasures & Tales. $2, ($1 Dinomites)

Film Screening: Te Kooti Trail Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 June, 3pm Two screenings of the 1927 New Zealand silent film classic. Directed by film pioneer Rudall Hayward, Te Kooti Trail has only recently been restored to its former glory by the New Zealand Film Archive. This occasion marks its first Auckland screening since that restoration. These screenings are held in conjunction with the New Zealand Film Archive and feature live piano accompaniment by Tama Karena. APEC Room.

A (G)astromical Event Tuesdays 14, 21 & 28 June, 6-8pm Come prepared to experience NZ native foods in a special event that celebrates Matariki while acknowledging both traditional Maori knowledge and contemporary use of food products. Museum Shop Foyer. Cost $35 per person – Reservations confirmed upon ticket purchase. Enquiries to Peter Millward (09) 306 7036

Atamira Dance Collective Performances Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 June, 3pm Choreographer Moss Patterson and the Atamira Dance Collective will present the piece 'Te Paki'. Maori Court.

Learn Te Reo Sunday 19 June, 11am Immerse yourself in the Maori language in this fun, free class; for ages 7 – 12. Education Room, Ground Floor.

Matariki Night Sky Sunday 26 June Decorate a star to help fill our Matariki night sky. All day. Stevenson Discovery Centre: Treasures & Tales.

Fred’s Frond by the Purple Parasouls Sunday 26 June, 2pm Fred's Frond is an interactive show that incorporates mime, dance and songs and uses stylised minimalist theatre techniques and fabulous percussion instruments. It tells of Fred's waka journey to deliver magic koru to his friends and is scattered with te reo, pork and puha, and pohutukawa. The show’s themes celebrate fitness, friendship, native plants, the sharing of kai and of course the great outdoors - making it a real piece of original Kiwiana perfect for Matariki! Stevenson Discovery Centre: Treasures & Tales.

Lecture: Ko Tawa – Sharing Breath Dr Paul Tapsell Wednesday 27 July, 7.30pm The curator of the Ko Tawa exhibition and Tumuaki (Director Maori) of Auckland Museum, Dr Paul Tapsell presents insights into the extraordinary Gilbert Mair collection and its continuing importance in the telling of the history of the Central North Island. Auckland Museum Institute Members $5, Non-members $10. APEC Room.


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