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Exhibition Celebrates 70 Year Contribution By Kuia, To Whānau Wellbeing

At a time when a pandemic creates struggles and issues for whānau across the nation, it seems more important than ever to commemorate the help and support that the Māori Women’s Welfare League has provided to families in need, for 70 years.

The exhibition Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko i Te Ora o Te Awahou – 70th Anniversary Celebrations Exhibition opens in Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, Foxton, on Saturday 9 October. It tells stories of quiet achievement in the local area – by generations of wāhine who have made countless efforts to support whānau, across the decades.

The exhibition will be on display in the Māpuna Kabinet art gallery, until Friday 10 December. The official opening ceremony takes place at 10.30am. The public is welcome after 1pm.

“With this exhibition, we aim to highlight the calibre of the women who contributed all their love in humble ways – for many years, and always in private – to support whānau and do the mahi,” says Tracey Robinson, president of the Te Awahou Māori Women’s Welfare League branch.

“We want to pay homage to those kuia, who guided us to uphold our values and respond to the needs of hapū, tamariki and mokopuna,” says Tracey. “These days we are of course involved in the kaupapa of our response to COVID-19 and the need for immunisation. Back in the day, we supported the development of wellbeing of tamariki and the women who needed help. The mahi by these wāhine was never really in the public eye, so it is time to shine the spotlight on this wonderful piece of history.”

The exhibition will include taonga from throughout the decades, including League uniforms, a pūreke (traditional Māori cape), trophies and tāniko woven items, plus lots of photos.

“We want to tell the stories of the birth and growth of the local branch, and how it fits into the national body,” says curator Pip Devonshire.

“There are many intimate connections shared by League members and whānau with various taonga on exhibit, and we want to highlight those,” says Pip.

“The Te Awahou branch of the League carry the kaupapa of the political development of the movement, throughout the decades. Today, immunisation is important. But all our past presidents have played their part in the political development of Aotearoa New Zealand. That’s how they upheld the mana of the organisation.”

To put the stories together, Whaea Ani Watson and Pip have had a number of conversations with those who have loaned taonga. “We could write a book about the Te Awahou branch, and hopefully one day someone will come forward to collect and document all that history,” says Pip.

“There is all the ground work that was done, and the connections that were made and the care that was provided by the League. To give just one example, there was a house in Jenks Street that supported many whānau over the years. But there is also the bigger historical picture, of mana whenua leaving their traditional homes to join the urban Māori migration. And there are the links with Whina Cooper, who was instrumental in creating the league. These are big stories to tell.”

Exhibition: Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko i Te Ora o Te Awahou – 70th Anniversary Celebrations

Location: Māpuna Kabinet art gallery, Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, 92 Main Street, Foxton

Opening: Saturday 9 October. Pōwhiri invited guests only, at 10.30am. Public after 1pm.

Timeframe: 9 October to Friday 10 December

Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom

Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom is an award-winning multicultural museum and library facility, home to the Piriharakeke Generation Inspiration Centre that tells the local story of Ngāti Raukawa Ki te Tonga, and the Oranjehof Dutch Connection Centre that tells the story of the Dutch in New Zealand.

This beautiful place is situated in Te Awahou Foxton’s Riverside Cultural Park, which also hosts the Whare Manaaki carving and tā moko workshop, Dutch windmill De Molen and the Flax Stripper Museum. Visit https://www.teawahou.com/Home for more information.

The Māpuna Kabinet art gallery hosts a rolling schedule of art exhibitions of regional and international importance.

Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, in Te Awahou Riverside Cultural Park
92 Main Street, Foxton
www.TeAwahou.com

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