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Honoured to be kaitiaki for exhibition taonga

A Gisborne couple have been selected to escort 37 taonga (treasure) from Britain to Tairawhiti for the exhibition Tu te Whaihanga: a recognition of creative genius.

Te Runanga o Turanganui A Kiwa, Te Aitanga A Mahaki Trust and Parihimanihi Marae trustee Huia Pihema and husband Joe have been delegated responsibility as kaitiaki (guardians) to undertake tikanga (custom) around the taonga on behalf of Tairawhiti.

The 37 taonga that will form the foundation of the exhibition are in the final stages of preparation for the journey.

The artefacts were traded and gifted with HMS Endeavour’s crew and Raiatea chief Tupaia during encounters with tangata whenua (people of the land) of Turanganui-a-Kiwa and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti 250 years ago.

The taonga will be returned to this region on short-term loan from five museums in England and Germany.

Tu Te Whaihanga has been in the making for at least nine years, says Hei Kanohi Ora Governance Group chairwoman Mrs Pihema.

“This is a huge project where taonga created by our tipuna (ancestors) can be brought home to their turangawaewae (standing place).

“We want our people to have the opportunity to tangi to our taonga, to consider our tipuna whom we lost during that time and to possibly help with healing the hurts of 250 years.”

Made up of Turanganui-a-Kiwa mana whenua and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, the Hei Kanohi Ora Governance Group sees the exhibition as a legacy project “where we hope to establish and develop good relationships with the kaitiaki of our taonga”.

Mr Pihema, a former Tairawhiti Museum deputy director and curator, says it is a privilege to accompany his wife in escorting the taonga back to New Zealand.

“My focus will be to support the tikanga requirements in and around the taonga to ensure their cultural integrity is maintained.”

Hei Kanohi Ora Iwi Governance Group works in partnership with Tairawhiti Museum. It is also working with Maori-owned television production company Pango Productions to document the journey of the taonga, and the people involved, from England to Tairawhiti Museum.

The year-long exhibition Tu te Whaihanga opens at Tairawhiti Museum on October 7.

The public are invited to attend the opening which will begin with a pohiri in Kelvin Park outside the museum at 10am.

GUARDIANS: Huia Pihema and husband Joe will escort taonga from Britain to New Zealand for the Tu te Whaihanga exhibition at Tairawhiti Museum, opening on October 7. Picture supplied