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Māori galleries

He Taonga Māori - Māori Court

Ground Floor, Foyer Entrance

Visitors to He Taonga Māori (Māori Treasures) are presented with a story that relates the past, the present and something of the future of Māori in New Zealand.

This gallery contains over 1,000 artefacts from around Aotearoa which date back to the arrival and settlement of Māori. Collected by the Museum over the last 150 years: these items, be they carved, woven or otherwise, provide descendants with tangible links to their past.

There are a number of original full-size buildings in this gallery including Hotunui, the meeting house that was originally a wedding gift from Ngāti Awa in the eastern Bay of Plenty to Ngāti Maru in Thames. Te Toki ā Tāpiri, the last great war canoe used in battle and carved from a giant totara tree, takes pride of place. These are surrounded by a host of everyday objects once used for living, hunting and fishing to provide a holistic presentation of Māori life in Aotearoa before the arrival of the Pākehā.

Other masterpieces include a unique gateway carving sourced originally from Lake Tangonge, near Kaitaia. Dating from the 12th to 14th centuries, it is considered to be the earliest surviving Māori carving in the world. Te Rangitakaroro, from Lake Okataina, is a superb example of a traditional gateway paying homage to an ancestor. An impressive collection of fibrework is also on display including early dogskin cloaks, elegant kaitaka, and striking feather cloaks and other woven articles. Even hunting and fishing materials are examined to show the level of artistry employed in these items of everyday use.

Personal stories and accounts cloak the taonga. The wairua (spirituality) of taonga Māori is joyously acknowledged; Māori are promoted as a living people — past, present and future.

The effect of He Taonga Māori is to show a people with a rich and diverse history who have been able to retain their ethnic identity today despite the influences of the past two centuries.