Rongowhakaata officially launch their exhibition at Te Papa

By Ani-Oriwia Adds

Generations of descendants from Rongowhakaata turned up this morning to officially open their new exhibition called 'Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow.

A momentous occasion for Rongowhakaata

Māori Co-Leader at Te Papa and Rongowhakaata descendant Arapata Hakiwai says, “Im really happy because Te Hau-ki-Tūranga has been here for a long time and his iwi, and his people have come back and brought their presence with them here to Te Papa.”

Taharakau Stewart from Rongowhakaata says, “This is a humble gathering where we also acknowledge our ancestors who have passed on. They started this project and they lead this project in Pako Street, and now we're here. It is also humbling to be able to present the spirit of Rongowhaakata.”

This exhibition displays precious artefacts and tells the many stories of five marae in Rongowhakaata - Manutūkē, Ōhako, Pāhou, Te Kurī, and Whakatō.

Thelma Karaitiana from Rongonwhakaata says, “This was a request by the olds of Rongowhakaata. They called to the people of Rongowhakaata to hold an exhibition for the many treasures and artefacts shared between the families.  The treasures were taken around to each marae. All five of them and they brought us all together to develop this exhibition.”

Among the 150 taonga that will be displayed in the exhibition is Te Kooti's prayer book from 1866, written by him during his wrongful imprisonment on the Chatham Islands and an original hoe traded during Rongowhakaata's 1769 encounter with James Cook.

Hakiwai says, “Rongowhakaata have heaps of stories. Stories about our ancestor Te Kooti Arikirangi, how the tipuna whare was stolen and many more events that took place in Rongowhaata.”

Rongowhakaata descendent Derek Lardelli says, “This project has finally found its wings. It started as something small and has grown to become something extraordinary. Let it be shown to the world”

The exhibition was officially opened to the public to view from today onwards.