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Last chance to see precious taonga

Exhibition pieces returning to home institutions in Europe
ON DISPLAY: A taiaha at Tairāwhiti Museum. They are used for quick, sharp strikes or stabbing thrusts which require agile footwork. Pictures by Tairāwhiti Museum
CLASSIC: The Hinematioro Pou is significant to Te Aitanga a Hauiti for its association with their ancestress Hinematioro. The pou was a centre piece in the Joseph Banks Exhibition in Bonn, Germany.
DEADLY: Patu wahaika were weapons made from whalebone or hard wood for use in hand to hand combat. The carved figure was usually a deity or protector for the fighter.

Sacred taonga that left Te Tairāwhiti 250 years ago will go abroad again after the exhibition Tū Te Whaihanga: A Recognition of Creative Genius closes on Sunday.

The 37 taonga on display at Tairāwhiti Museum include items from the HMS Endeavour’s first voyage to Aotearoa in October 1769.

Museum director Eloise Wallace is keen for locals to get in quickly before the exhibition closes.

“It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these amazing taonga before they go.

“Come and see the exhibition before they head back overseas,” she said.

“It’s been 250 years that they haven’t been home and we don’t know when they are next going to be home again after they leave.”

Taonga are on loan from The British Museum, Pitt University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Great North Museum: Hancock and Tübingen University Museum.

The items include eight painted hoe paddles that were traded while at sea off Whareongaonga (south of Tūranganui-a-Kiwa) on October 12, 1769 and a pou gifted to the crew after visiting Pourewa Island near Tolaga Bay.

The exhibition also includes rākau (weapons), kākahu (cloaks), tātua (belts) and whakairo (carvings).

“We encourage that last rush of people to see them while they can. People are welcome to take photographs in the gallery.”

After the items leave the museum will still have digital resources available, but to actually see the real thing, this might be your last chance.

“They’ve been here a lot longer than expected. It was going to be an exhibition for one year and due to Covid we were fortunately able to have them for an extended period.

“They will all be going back to Europe to their home institutions, and a lot of them won’t be going back on display, at least not in the short-term,” said Eloise.

The museum has been “chock-a-block” with school bookings as young people are squeezed in to see the exhibition before it goes.

Many of the items have had replicas made so descendants connected with the items can reclaim the knowledge behind the carvings.