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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

EIT | Te Pūkenga Professor of Māori and Indigenous Research David Tipene-Leach (left), Kauri Te Atua (Ngāti Kere Pōrangahau descent), and Rangitane Tipene Matua.

The opening of Auaka Tumutumu Te Kura i Awarua exhibition and symposium was filled with emotion, as taonga, some a century and a half old, went on display.

Presented by Te Kura i Awarua Rangahau Māori Research Centre at EIT | Te Pūkenga, the exhibition features precious Ngāti Kere taonga from a mid-1800s wharenui in Pōrangahau and contemporary Māori art from Toihoukura (School of Māori Visual Art and Design) in Tairāwhiti, Te Ūranga Waka (School of Māori Studies) and IDEAschool.

The exhibition will run for another week at the Hastings Community Arts Centre, culminating in a one day workshop and a three day symposium that will delve into conservation of taonga Māori and archiving of taonga manuscripts.

EIT | Te Pūkenga Professor of Māori and Indigenous Research David Tipene-Leach says it means “everything to us”.

“This is a big day for our Te Kura i Awarua Rangahau Māori Centre. This is a big day for our smaller Archives unit. This is a big day for EIT | Te Pūkenga. This is a big day for Ngāti Kere.”

It builds on an archive symposium held two years ago at Te Ara o Tāwhaki, Te Ūranga Waka, EIT | Te Pūkenga Marae in the School Māori Studies, and featured a rich trove of manuscripts charting important periods of Ngāti Kahungunu history from two significant collections that have been passed down through the generations of two Māori whānau: the Tipene Matua and Blake whānau.

That was also the plan this time around. However, with taonga Māori damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle and the recently repatriated carvings from the Te Poho o Kahungunu I meeting house of Rongomaraeroa Marae in Pōrangahau, everything came together to be able to showcase these taonga alongside the manuscripts.

The repatriation is the culmination of 35 years work for Ngāti Kere and is the final exhibition before the taonga are brought back home. He says this is a stopping point and a celebration point for their return home.

The taonga from the meeting house were scattered across the country at the Otago Museum, Whanganui Regional Museum, Auckland Museum, MTG Hawke’s Bay Tai Ahuriri and the homes of Tipene Matua family members.

“And as it happened, these taonga happen to be on their way home. We’re in a new world where museums are giving taonga back to the owners. These days museums recognise that they don’t own everything that they hold, and they’re actively collaborating with people who can demonstrate connection and ownership to be able to take possession again.

“For EIT | Te Pūkenga and for us at Te Kura i Awarua Rangahau Māori Centre, it is another feather in our cap because we have managed to contribute to the work of this hapū who organised the return of these taonga through their Treaty chair.”

Arts Inc. Heretaunga’s Pou Ārahi, Howard McGuire, says: “We are humbled and privileged that such a significant kaupapa for Ngāti Kahungunu makes history at the Hastings Community Art Centre”.

“It is an honour we deeply cherish, and we eagerly await the enriching experience that lies ahead for our entire community.”

EIT | Te Pūkenga Poutiaki Taonga – Archive Manager Chris Bryant-Toi says part of the challenge of this exhibition was to actually acknowledge our taonga.

“But for us living descendants of these taonga, the challenge is to actually maintain and extend them.”

He says it is “really lovely” that Ngāti Kere have these taonga.

“These taonga don’t need to hold the house up anymore. It’s actually the people that are upholding them. Ngāti Kere are planning a building,  whereby they can live and interact   at more ease with these  taonga.”

Auaka Tumutumu Te Kura i Awarua exhibition and symposium runs Monday to Friday 10am – 4pm and Saturday 10am – 2pm at the Hastings Community Art Centre, until August 4.