Tairāwhiti tohunga and artists could study 250-year-old taonga

By Jessica Tyson
Kaihaka welcome back ancestral taonga to Tairāwhiti / Source - File

Since being on display at Tairāwhiti Museum, 37 ancestral taonga that were traded with HMS Endeavour's crew during encounters with tāngata whenua, have become so popular that the governance group Hei Kanohi Ora is looking at starting wānanga to invite artists to study the pieces firsthand.

Huia Pihema was chosen as a kaitiaki to escort the taonga from five museums in England and Germany to Aotearoa in October.

Since then they've being on display at the museum, as part of the Tu te Whaihanga exhibition.

She says the reason why these taonga were returned was to benefit their younger generation, for them to be able to look back in time and learn about where these taonga came from.

There are many questions unanswered about the exact origin of each taonga so Hei Kanohi Ora has come up with a solution.

Next year, they intend to hold wānanga with the iwi, with the community and experts.

They also want to facilitate wānanga with traditional weavers and carvers, as well as reaching out to other tohunga inside and outside of Te Tairāwhiti.

The taonga include tipuna Te Poupou o Hinematioro from her whare on Te Pourewa Island. There are eight painted hoe paddles, traded at sea off Whareongaonga.

Others taonga include rākau (weapons), kākahu (cloaks), tātua (belts) and adornments.

Hei Kanohi Ora and museum staff are also working on programmes to educate visitors over this summer holiday.