Te Awe is a major project that is working through the 10,000 taonga Māori held at Auckland Museum from whakairo to whariki, to enhance their records and improve their care. 

From 2013-2016, our team of 6 worked with over 5,000 taonga Māori (predominantly whakairo) and now we are moving onto phase 2 looking at the taonga Māori textiles. As part of the process, each object has a conservation assessment; their record updated, and is photographed by our specialist team. 

This ambitious two year project presents many challenges. The detail in our records varies greatly, the language is inconsistent across groups of taonga and there is no set way to store many of these, so the team has been working to create innovative solutions for storage and record-keeping. One of the major goals is to improve accessibility to these taonga, so our storage technicians have been puzzling through new techniques to ensure these fragile taonga keep their shape and can be easily viewed by visiting manuhiri looking to research the techniques, materials and stories that are woven into these taonga.

In a broader sense, the ethnographic framework that has historically been used to organise the taonga Māori collections is now being recast. Instead a Mātauranga Māori approach is being developed by our collections team that recovers taonga names and redefines the relationships they have with each other.

To assist us in doing this, we have recruited a reference group of seven of Aotearoa’s most accomplished weavers to offer cultural knowledge and the correct kupu to be used both in Te Reo Māori and English, to describe the taonga, materials, making processes, their function and cultural significance.

Picture: (Left to right) Awhina Tamarapa, Te Hemo Ata Henare, Kahutoi Te Kanawa, Maureen Lander, Matekino Lawless, Christina Wirihana, (absent: Rangi Te Kanawa)

Over the next two years, this group named ‘Taumata Mareikura’ will look at key taonga within our 2,500 textile collection, starting sequentially from whariki (mats), to kete (bags and baskets), Kākahu (cloaks), piupiu and māro (waist garments), Hīnaki (fishing traps and nets) and nga mea taputapu (including: poi, whai, games and pastimes and other miscellaneous taonga). 

Our language is descriptive..if we are really truly going to
look through a Māori lens then what we have is an abundance of information
… 

Kahutoi Te Kanawa


Caption (right): Members from the Taumata Mareikura and Auckland Museum Staff view a few examples of taonga Māori textiles in the collection.

The completion of this project in 2019 will increase ease of access for weavers, researchers, whanau and iwi groups. Te Awe provides a wonderful opportunity to work with and learn from the wealth of knowledge that is inherent in taonga tuku iho, which is being rediscovered through the eyes of weavers. This knowledge is then reattributed to the taonga to activate their mauri so that future weavers and others are able to grasp the unique knowledge that resides within these taonga.

No reira, ko te wawata, kia mahi tahi matou, hei ringa raupa ma te manāki taonga, hei tohu tuku iho mo te iwi Māori me ona uri whakaheke. 


Na Bethany Matai Edmunds (Ngati Kuri, Weaver)
L.A. Spedding Associate Curator, Māori. Tāmaki Paenga Hira- Auckland Museum 


Image: Kaitaka, Huaki. AM 1503

Glossary


Taonga        Treasured object
Whakairo    Carved, carving 
Whāriki        Woven mat
Manuhiri    Visitor(s), guest(s)
Aotearoa    Indigenous name for New Zealand
Kupu        Word, vocabulary 
Mātauranga    Knowledge, wisdom, understanding, skill 
Kōrero         Speech, narrative, story, account, discussion, conversation, discourse, information
Mauri     Life force, life principle vital essence, special nature, the essential quality and vitality of a being or entity
 


[1] Know Your Māori Weaving- Pocket Guide. Murdoch Riley. P60.