IMAGE: Ariana BANKS (Ngāti Rārua, Rangitāne ki Wairau, Ngāti KuiA) and Te Piripoho Barrett-alesana (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Rangitāne ki Wairau, Ngāti Maniāpoto) in front of the takarangi (double) hei tiki spiral at the opening event

IMAGE: Ariana BANKS (Ngāti Rārua, Rangitāne ki Wairau, Ngāti KuiA) and Te Piripoho Barrett-alesana (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Rangitāne ki Wairau, Ngāti Maniāpoto) in front of the takarangi (double) hei tiki spiral at the opening event

Kura Pounamu: Our treasured stone opened on 24 August following a moving dawn ceremony. The over 200 pounamu taonga featured in the exhibition plus visiting guests were welcomed to Nelson Provincial Museum by mana whenua iwi, with the playing of taonga puoro as well as karanga, karakia, mihi and waiata.

The Museum was honoured to host key members of Te Papa - who present the exhibition alongside Ngāi Tahu - including Te Papa's Senior Curator, Dougal Austin, and Kaihautū (Māori Co-Leader). Arapata Hakiwai, as well as Mayor Rachel Reese, representatives of local iwi, Māori artists and many of the local community who came to support the opening.

Nelson Provincial Museum staff were enthralled to hear insider stories about the collection as they worked alongside the Te Papa install team for the many hours required to check and recheck every piece and carefully lay out the displays prior to Opening. Ten years in the making, the exhibition was first displayed at Te Papa following on from the highly successful Ngāi Tahu iwi exhibition featuring a range of Māori art. “We had a window between exhibitions and felt that it would be good to focus on just pounamu at that time” explains exhibition curator Dougal Austin. The team wanted to work with Ngāi Tahu on this, in recognition of their strong connection to pounamu. “Six of the seven pounamu sources are within the Ngāi Tahu rohe” says Dougal, “the seventh being the Nelson Tasman region… isn’t it appropriate that the collection should make its way here now?”

Image: Guests at the Opening event enjoy a first public viewing of the exhibition.

Image: Guests at the Opening event enjoy a first public viewing of the exhibition.

The exhibition has certainly travelled. Its first tour encompassed five locations across China, where its association with jade made it a popular feature, giving locals there a chance to touch large greenstone boulders – which for them would usually be culturally restricted. “Te Hurika is probably one of my favourite pieces” says Dougal of the exhibition’s largest (170kg) touchstone, of which he was personally involved in sourcing. “That, and the takarangi [double] spiral of around 80 hei tiki. We tried so many different patterns for that!” A spell in Paris attracted 113,000 visitors over a period of just four months, while a recent showing in Canterbury Museum reconnected the collection with Te Waipounamu (New Zealand’s South Island). “I never would have imagined that ten years on it would still be going,” exclaims Dougal, “and it’s not over yet!”

But, for Nelson it will be over all-too-soon. The exhibition is open for just three months, closing on Sunday, 24 November, and visitors are encouraged to come early as its likely you'll want to reconnect with it time and time again. Find out more about the exhibition here.


An exhibition presented by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

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With thanks to our poster partner:

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