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Ngāti Kahungunu taonga visits MTG


Tena koutou katoa,

We had a beautiful exhibition opening for Rongonui: Taonga mai ngā tāngata, ngā wāhi, me ngā takahanga, Treasured taonga from people, places and events this morning at MTG Hawke’s Bay. This began with the karanga, call, to all who attended the museum for this beautiful kaupapa, purpose.

This exhibition shares local and national stories through the taonga held in the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection, relating to famous people, places and events. It provides an opportunity to learn more about our local history, who we are and where we came from.

A distinct object of significance is the hei tiki Te Arawhiti, which originally belonged to Kahungunu, the ancestor to which all iwi descendants whakapapa, genealogical line of descent. It is approximately 700 years old and is housed in the Whanganui Museum amongst the people collectively known as Ngāti Hau.

Developing this exhibition, I had the pleasure of interviewing local kaumatua who know the stories of the people, events and places on display. In doing this there are some conflicting accounts, which is normal with history and memories, and there will be other versions as well no doubt. I hope people will share their stories about the Rongonui taonga with me so we may add more to what we know about the history of these objects.

The pōwhiri, welcome, and karanga, call, this morning was an important part of the opening. It upheld the precedence of tikanga and kawa, the correctness of etiquette. It influenced and set the scene for the exhibition. The tapu, sacredness of lore, of the words in the karanga reached far beyond the veil of life to Rarohenga, the underworld, where those who created the majority of these taonga reside with Hinenuitepo, the Goddess of death. The karanga called our tipuna back into te awatea, the world of light, albeit briefly, to give credence to what they left behind fashioned by their own hands for us all to see. It is only the female who has the capacity to karanga and give Rongonui life. For it is from women that the first breath, call of life, comes to us all, in this case Hineahuone. She was fashioned from soil at Kurawaka and it is from her that mankind descend in the cosmology of the Māori world, the beginning of human life.

More contemporary objects exhibited of a female element are the dresses worn by Whetū Tirikātene Sullivan, Ngai Tahu and Ngāti Kahungunu. She was also called back into the world of light from Rarohenga for this opening. Her dresses are a fashion statement ahead of their time when she was a Labour MP from 1967 to 1996. The 1960s were a fraught time for Māori and not conducive for a Māori dress sense in parliament. Whetū was a dignified and proud Māori presence in the public arena and she was beautiful with it.

Rongonui is now open to the public and I hope you will come in and enjoy it. 


  • Our new exhibition - Rongonui: Taonga mai ngā tāngata, ngā wāhi, me ngā takahanga, Treasured taonga from people, places and events will be open to the public at 9.30am today.
  • MTG Movie Club – Big Eyes. MTG Century Theatre, today at 2pm. Tickets $10 or $5 for Friends of MTG. Tickets available from the front desk at MTG or through Eventfinda.
  • MTG Family Movie Club – The Polar Express. MTG Century Theatre, Sunday 1 December 10.30am. Free admission, no booking required.
  • Five Pākehā Painters Last day to view exhibition - Sunday 1 December.
  • NZ Army Band: In Concert. MTG Century Theatre, Tuesday 3 December 7.30pm. Join the New Zealand Army in concert for a memorable evening of music. Tickets available through Ticketek.
  • Behind the Scenes – Feeling Festive Tour. MTG Education Suite, Tuesday 10 December 3.30pm. Tickets $10 or $5 for Friends of MTG. Tickets available through Eventfinda

Image Caption: Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan tunic with Sandy Adsett design

1 December 2019

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