Return of Taonga Marks a Major Milestone

Article - By Te Hira Henderson - 22.07.23  

The upcoming exhibition on Te Poho o Kahungunu at the Hastings Community Arts Centre, set to open Monday 24 July at 4pm, has ignited a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement among the local community and beyond. It represents more than just a mere display of artifacts; it symbolises a reconnection to ancestral roots and a celebration of an enduring spirit that has withstood the trials of time.

Carvings which have been on loan to MTG Hawke’s Bay Tai Ahuriri since 1986 will form part of the exhibition. The carvings' return to Pōrangahau marks a profound step towards reconciliation and healing. For too long, these taonga were separated from their rightful home, scattered across the country in various museums. Now, as they are brought together for one final exhibition, the significance of this moment cannot be overstated. It is a time for reflection, appreciation, and a reawakening of cultural identity.

The story of Te Poho o Kahungunu echoes through generations, reminding us of the resilience and strength of the people who fought for their land and culture. The whare stands not just as a testament to architectural brilliance but as a living testament to the determination of Henare Matua and those who dared to resist foreign dominance.

The Auaka Tumutumu Te Kura i Awarua Archives and Taonga Māori Symposium that follows the exhibition presents a unique opportunity for scholars and researchers to delve deeper into the historical context surrounding these carvings. The symposium promises to be a gathering of minds, fostering discussions on indigenous knowledge, cultural heritage, and the importance of reconnecting taonga.

Taonga from the house Te Poho o Kahungunu were scattered across Otago Museum, Whanganui Regional Museum, MTG and the homes of Kuia Kauia Tipene Stevenson, and Dr. David Tipene-Leach. All parties worked together to realise the vision to reunite these taonga after being apart for 37 years.

The broader public, regardless of ethnicity, is encouraged to participate and witness this significant moment in history. This exhibition stands as a bridge, fostering understanding and appreciation for the rich cultural heritage that defines Aotearoa.

As the doors of the Hastings Community Arts Centre open for the exhibition, it also opens hearts and minds to the deeper connection between taonga, people, and the land. The return of Te Poho o Kahungunu marks a turning point in acknowledging the past, while paving the way for a more inclusive and culturally enriched future.

The stories etched in the intricate carvings come to life once more, captivating visitors with their tales of triumph and perseverance. With reverence, the community stands united, paying homage to the legacy of those who came before and the promise of a brighter, more culturally vibrant tomorrow.

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper on 22 July 2023 and written by Te Hira Henderson, Curator Taonga Maori at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

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