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Relaunching of Te Māori Manaaki Taonga Trust

Te Ururoa Flavell

14 SEPTEMBER, 2015

Relaunching of Te Māori Manaaki Taonga Trust

Delivered by Piri Sciascia on behalf of Mr Flavell

It is 31 years to the day that TE MĀORI opened at dawn in New York.

What better context than today for relaunching the Te Māori Manaaki Taonga Trust.

It was from TE MĀORI that this Trust was born.

The profits from TE MĀORI were allocated to administer internships and scholarships to ensure that Māori were afforded the skills needed to care for their taonga.

Today we are here to mark a new milestone – a changed Trust Deed that broadens the functions and purpose of the Trust – a new entity for the future of taonga Māori.

From a primary purpose of promoting the training of Māori as curators and conservators – the Trust will now be involved in:

• promoting, organising and supporting events related to education and training Māori as custodians of taonga Māori;

• leading and supporting information exchange, knowledge transfer, and increasing awareness and understanding of taonga Māori;

• developing new taonga Māori; and

• promoting, preserving and supporting activities that honour the legacy of TE MĀORI for future generations.

The objects and purpose of the Trust are focused around four pillars:

• Te Ōhāki a TE MĀORI (the legacy of TE MĀORI);

• Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge);

• Taonga Māori (Māori cultural objects); and

• Tangata Māori (Māori peoples).

Since TE MĀORI, interest in its legacy has continued and is still for many, a pivotal point for celebrating taonga Māori.

The first of these pou, Te Ōhāki a Te Māori, resides in the community.

An example is Lady June Te Rina Mead who during the exhibition was education adviser to all of the American museums where TE MĀORI was exhibited.

She helped plan their programmes, assisted with training, helped with activities that supported the exhibition and was integral to people here and overseas having access to knowledge and information about the taonga.

There are other names – some who are here today – who are also examples of this legacy – Hirini Moko Mead, Hon Koro Wetere, Dr. Tamati Reedy, Kara Puketapu and Piri Sciascia.

There are of course many great leaders who are no longer with us today, but who played an integral role in TE MĀORI.

They include: the Archbishop Tā Paul Reeves, tohunga Henare Tuwhāngai and Sonny Waru, Ta James Henare, Hon Ben Couch, Ta John Bennett, Kuru Waaka, Tā Hepi te Heuheu, Moni Taumaunu, Canon Wi Huata, Tā Kingi Ihaka, Hamu Mitchell, Hon Dr Peter Tapsell – and others.

The list is a roll call of great leaders, too many to mention.

There are also many who were young back then and who now are our pakeke and leaders today – Hon Pita Sharples, Temuera Morrison, Herewini Parata, Mita Mohi, Trevor Maxwell – again too many to mention, but who all hold valuable information.

They represent a legacy of scholars from whom we could learn so much more about TE MAORI; and the development, preservation, promotion, funding and exhibition of taonga Māori.

It took nine years to assemble the exhibition, with many people playing a different part in the transformation – from the original idea of an exhibition – to the actual opening in New York, and on to St Louis, San Francisco and Chicago before returning here to Aotearoa where it was shown in Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch and Auckland.

The exhibition finally closed on this day in 1987 – three years after it opened in New York.

Today as we look back at its great success we should also learn from the experience.

Calling the iwi together, talking to them about the exhibition, seeking their support and agreement to participate, dealing with museum officials here and overseas, and with government agencies and politicians – was, for its time, an innovation.

An innovation of such expanse, did of course ruffle feathers.

Māori leaders and organisers had to learn to work together … this was the first time in history that the Māori people were actively involved in negotiations for an international exhibition of our art.

In this respect new ground was broken. It was the first time too that Māori were resourced to lead such a major undertaking, which would put us as an indigenous people on the world stage.

Some doubted the wisdom of taking our taonga to the US.

In hindsight though, many agreed that the international acclaim heaped on the exhibition proved to be the catalyst for shifting the national perception of the greatness and genius of taonga Māori.

That perception of our art at the time was as ‘little, pagan, and primitive’. This was turned upside down, and inside out by the opening in New York.

By taking our art to New York we altered its status and changed overnight, the perception of it, by people here and abroad.

It was brought out of obscurity, out of the closet, out of anonymity and out of any primitive contextualisation.

It was freed from the limiting intellectual climate of New Zealand and was released to be seen by the world.

It allowed many of our people to see their heritage as a beautiful gift from their ancestors; it rid us of some of the prejudices that existed in society; and helped free our minds.

Freed from this burden, we at last saw clearly saw our taonga, our arts – as our heritage and legacy.

To quote Sir Hirini Moko Mead… “It is as though a veil; was lifted from our faces, enabling us to look into a mirror and see ourselves as Māori people who have a rich art heritage and who have much to be proud of.

TE MĀORI raised our self-esteem, it gave us more space in the world, it defined clearly our identity as Māori and as New Zealanders, it ennobled us and lifted our morale – illuminated by a new glow of internationalism.

TE MĀORI was therefore the great precursor to many more such remarkable exhibitions and promotional events that continue today.

This includes representations of a famous tupuna – the remarkable, 18th century Pūkaki – a renowned rangatira of Te Arawa holding his warrior sons Wharengaro and Rangitakuku and between his legs with his wife Ngapuia.

Ever since TE MĀORI, Pūkaki has received national and international attention.

He has been the poster figure to spearhead te reo Māori revitalisation efforts across the nation.

He has become the key figure of the twenty cent coin that is used in everyday life across Aotearoa.

But more importantly he has been reconnected rightfully to his descendants, to his people, of which I am of one.

TE MĀORI has been the forerunner to many of our now widely acclaimed artists like exhibiting their own works overseas – again to an outpouring of praise and approbation.

So back to the Trust Deed, now with its wider scope which will facilitate:

• discussions with iwi and other agencies about taonga Māori, its care, preservation and promotion;

• the co-management and co-funding of future exhibitions;

• the provision of scholarships;

• research and policy development;

• the creation new partnerships; and

• celebrations and promotions associated with the legacy of TE MĀORI.

On this premise, the Trust will now move to a new business footing and establish a funding base for future projects.

Today, I acknowledge the current trustees – Piri Sciascia (Chair); Arapata Hakiwai (Te Papa) and Garry Nicholas (Toi Māori).

They have purposefully kept the Trust small in order to get the foundation work completed quickly and with minimal fuss.

Bringing us together to relaunch the Trust and its reorientation is one of the key activities of the Trustees.

Having an evidence based approach is fundamental to the future work and growth of the Trust.

I understand the Trust has a research project underway to kick start the development of a new funding and business model which will also include a strategic plan.

The need for analysis and an evidence base is central to the purpose of the Trust and its role in:

• promoting and appointing Māori professionals to museums; collating statistics to tell us where we are in the sector, and what the gaps in recruitment are;

• identify what the needs of the sector are going forward; including the value and contribution of the legacy of TE Māori; and

• managing issues like the retention of important Māori taonga here, rather than losing it to wealthy overseas buyers.

The Trust has been reinstated because it promises a bright future that truly recognises the proper value and importance of taonga Māori.

The Trust has a strong duty to ensure that any investment is enduring today and for future generations.

Today marks an era of renewed commitment to the preservation and promotion of Māori taonga here and throughout the world.

TE MAORI was and remains today, an event of great pride, esteem and dignity.

It was about Mana Māori – a milestone statement in the assertion of a Maori right to stand tall – an exhibition that acquired a persona of its own, with mana that represented the combined power and authority of the ancestors who comprised it.

An emblem of pride, heredity and continuance that will live on in the work and achievements of the Trust.

Congratulations to you all.

He toi whakairo, he mana tangata

Where there is artistic excellence, there is human dignity.


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