The dawn ceremony for the return of the famed Motunui Panels - five late 18th century carved pātaka panels which comprise a masterpiece of Maori art has taken place at Ōwae Marae.
The panels made their way back to New Zealand only last year after more than 40 years overseas.
“The Motunui Panels are objects of huge cultural and historical significance as well as being extraordinary works of art,” Chris Finlayson said.
The Motunui Panels are five panels forming the end wall of a pātaka (store house) that were recovered from a swamp near Motunui in Taranaki in 1972. The panels were carved before 1820 by Te Atiawa artists, and were most likely hidden in the swamp during a period of inter-tribal wars for safe keeping. Shortly after their discovery in 1972 the panels were illegally exported out of the country, without the knowledge of the government. They were later sold to a private collector.
Te Kāea reporter Maiki Sherman will have more details on this story tonight at 5:30 and 7pm with subtitles.