Heitiki, 2017. By Matthew Thornton. Photography by Michael O’Neill. Te Papa. Courtesy of New Zealand Maori Arts and
18 September 2017 - MEDIA RELEASE - For immediate release
Gisborne iwi Rongowhakaata’s exhibition opens at Te Papa end of September
The major new exhibition Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow, which showcases the dramatic stories, histories, treasured taonga and the exceptional artistry of the Gisborne iwi,
will open at Te Papa on Friday 29 September.
Te Papa Chief Executive Geraint Martin says “It's a privilege to present this important exhibition, and to continue the
legacy of the Iwi-in-Residence programme which is one of the ways in which Te Papa embodies what it means to be a
This is the eighth iwi exhibition programme since Te Papa opened in 1998.
Te Papa Kaihautū (Māori Co-leader) Dr Arapata Hakiwai says the exhibition enables iwi to tell their own stories and
present their taonga in their own way.
“It’s a particularly moving experience for me, as I am of Rongowhakaata descent, to see my people’s journey presented so
powerfully,” he says.
Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust Chairperson Moera Brown says this exhibition marks a significant milestone of our cultural
aspirations and is also an opportunity for closer ties and whanaungatanga (relationship, kinship) with Te Papa.
“This exhibition continues Rongowhakaata’s cultural outreach initiated by a series of exhibitions at the iwi’s five
marae – Manutūkē, Ōhako, Pāhou, Te Kurī, and Whakatō, in early 2016 and the award-winning iwi exhibition at Tairawhiti
Museum held in December last year.
We welcome you to our exhibition – a gateway into the world of our people. It portrays our vital connection with our
origins and home area of Tūranga and how these continue to frame and influence our expressions of who we are and how we
engage in the world,” Ms Brown says.
The theme of light and shadow refers to the impact of light on the East Coast landscape and its influence on
Rongowhakaata creative expression. This can be seen in the high relief of the iwi’s carving, for which it’s renowned.
The world’s oldest surviving whare whakairo (carved meeting house), Te Hau ki Tūranga, sits at the heart of the
exhibition. Built in the 1840s and wrongfully confiscated by the Crown in 1867, Te Hau ki Tūranga was then held by the
Colonial Museum, displayed at the Dominion Museum and moved to Te Papa where it has been displayed since 1998. In 2012,
as part of Rongowhakaata’s Treaty of Waitangi settlement, the New Zealand government apologised for the forcible removal
of Te Hau ki Tūranga, stating that the whare whakairo belongs to Rongowhakaata. Throughout the course of the two and a
half year exhibition Rongowhakaata will commence restoration of their precious taonga and Te Papa supports the iwi’s
aspirations for the whare. The exhibition’s opening date, September 29, is significant as it marks 144 years since the
passing of Raharuhi Rukupo the master carver who conceived and helped build, alongside 18 other carvers, the 175 year
The strength and the continuity of Rongowhakaata's culture and innovative spirit will be presented in the exhibition
through collection items, loans from families and institutions, commissioned artworks, digital media and the stories of
Te Papa has commissioned senior Rongowhakaata artist, Arts Foundation Laureate and Professor (Ahorangi) Derek Lardelli
to create a major work that reflects Rongowhakaata creative expression. His carved work Ngā manu a Rongo reflects the influence of Rongowhakaata’s ancestors through time.
More than 150 taonga will be displayed in the exhibition, including:
• carving from some of Rongowhakaata’s most important tohunga whakairo (master carvers)
• Te Kooti's prayer book from 1866, written by him during his wrongful imprisonment on the Chatham Islands
• Wi Pere’s whale bone tokotoko (oratory stick) carved by Raharuhi Rukupo
• intricate kōwhaiwhai panels from the Toko Toru Tapu church built in the mid 1800s
• an original hoe (paddle) traded during Rongowhakaata’s 1769 encounter with James Cook
• examples of outstanding weaving, including beautiful kākahu (cloaks)
• the typewriter Witi Ihimaera used to write Pounamu, Pounamu.
Visitors will be immersed in an engaging audio-visual environment that will include:
• projections and soundscapes, and the works of Rongowhakaata composers, such as Tama Waipara, and Rob Ruha
• multi-screen AV showing footage of the iwi’s five marae and its hapū to welcome visitors
• an animation of Rongowhakaata’s account of Cook’s visit in 1769 to Tūranga (Gisborne)
The exhibition Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow will have a ceremonial opening (pōwhiri) on Friday 29 September with a large contingent of iwi who will have travelled
from all over New Zealand.
Notes to the Editors
Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow, opens 29 September
Level 4, Te Papa, 55 Cable Street, Wellington.
Free entry. Open every day 10am—6pm (except Christmas Day)
The attached image(s) are to be used in association with the media/ press release and/ or the promotion of the
exhibition Ko Rongowhakaata: A Story of Light and Shadow only. Any additional uses, not outlined above, require further permission from Te Papa, any other copyright holders
and/ or associated parties. The copyright of these images is retained by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and
the Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust and/or Te Hau ki Tūranga Trust jointly.
About the Iwi Exhibition Programme
The Iwi Exhibition Programme started in 1998.
Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow is the eighth iwi exhibition at Te Papa.
The previous seven iwi exhibitions are
• Te Āti Awa (1998–1999)
• Te Aupouri: People of smoke and flame (1999–2001)
• Tūhoe: Moumou kai, moumou taonga, moumou tangata ki te pō (2001–2003)
• Whanganui: Te Awa Tupua The Whanganui Iwi Exhibition (2003–2006)
• Ngāi Tahu: Mō Tātou The Ngāi Tahu Whānui Exhibition (2006–2009)
• Tainui: Tai timu, tai pari, Tainui: Journey of a people (2011–2014)
• Ngāti Toa: Whiti te Rā! The Story of Ngāti Toa Rangatira (2014–2017)
About Te Hau ki Tūranga
• June 12, 2017 marks 150 years since the first accession record of Rongowhakaata’s whare whakairo (carved meeting
house) Te Hau ki Tūranga was entered into the records of the Colonial Museum account books.
• The whare was confiscated earlier that year by the Minister of Native Affairs and Acting Director of the Colonial
Museum, James Crowe Richmond supported by government troops.
• In 2012, as part of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement between Rongowhakaata and the Crown, the New Zealand government
apologised for the forcible removal of Te Hau ki Tūranga, stating that the whare belongs to Rongowhakaata.
• The Colonial Museum made extensive changes to the house in the 1920s and 1930s. Rongowhakaata is developing a plan to
restore the whare during the term of their residency at Te Papa.
• The decision as to whether Te Hau ki Tūranga will remain at Te Papa or return to Gisborne after the two and a half
year exhibition rests with the iwi and has yet to be made.