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What is Te Awe? Where did the idea come from? What is required to achieve a project of such mammoth scale? An exploration of all the many factors that go into preserving and sharing precious taonga, some of them hundreds of years old.
Gathered from across Aotearoa, the Taumata Māreikura are a group of expert weavers, that assembled to share their knowledge and in turn learn from the incredible cloaks in the Museum’s collection. Discover their stories, and what Te Awe means to them.
Some of the items in the Museum’s collection are in an incredibly fragile state and run the risk of disintegrating entirely. We take a look at the vital decisions being made regarding an especially at-risk cloak, and the important learnings the Taumata Māreikura can take from it.
Part of Te Awe’s mission is to improve the storage of these taonga in order to ensure that they are preserved for future generations. Discover the incredible lengths the Museum team go to in order to move these taonga to their new home.
Since the project started in 2013 with Phase 1, over 5,400 taonga made from wood and stone passed through the project team’s caring hands. In Phase 2, from 2017 to 2019, the Museum worked through another 5,000+ textiles and items woven from plant materials.
The name of our project, Te Awe, refers to adornment, the additions that embellish taonga through ornamentation – the hair and feathers at the head of a taiaha or heel of a toki, the tags and tassels of kākahu. As with these acts of embellishment, our project seeks to uphold the mana of taonga in Auckland Museum by advancing our care of them, stabilising their forms, suitably re-housing them, and improving digital access to them through images and documentation. Through these actions, we adorn the taonga in our care.
Over the course of the project each collection item is processed by our specialist team of nine. This mahi includes:
- Enriching collection database records
- Appropriately describing taonga using suitable terms, techniques and materials
- Correcting and standardising terminology and classifications
- Cleaning and stabilising taonga to prevent future deterioration
- Capturing high resolution images
- Improving storage to be safe and accessible
The first phase of this project (2013-2016), centred on the renewal of Auckland Museum's carving store, home to approximately 5,400 carved taonga. Amongst these are decorative carvings from whare, domestic and agricultural tools, tiki, pūtātara (conch trumpets), waka and hoe (canoes and paddles), and weaponry such as patu and taiaha. Crafted from pounamu (greenstone), bone, shell, and various stones and wood, these taonga speak to all aspects of Māori material culture and exemplify the diverse range of styles and techniques developed over generations.
In the second phase (2017-2019), as part of our Mātauranga Māori approach, Auckland Museum partnered with our Taumata Māreikura, a group made up of some of Aotearoa’s most skilled and experienced weavers. For every momo (object grouping) we hosted a wānanga with the Taumata Māreikura, where we all looked at a selection of taonga and provide space for discussions to happen. These discussions help us to confirm the kupu that we use and provide a space in which to tease out tikanga. As customary practitioners, the Taumata Māreikura have a wealth of knowledge that enriches our databases and museum practices. Greater contextual knowledge about the harvesting and preparation of weaving materials, weaving processes, use, and storage of taonga informs our decisions through every step of the project.
This phase of the Te Awe project has been captured in a four-part mini documentary series, focusing on the mahi and collaboration with Taumata Māreikura, a group made up of some of Aotearoa's most skilled and experienced weavers.