I te Ara Taonga | On the Road – Hōngongoi 2019

nā Paora Tibble, Kaiwhanake ā-Iwi │Iwi Development Adviser

After 10 years of working at Te Papa as a taonga Māori Collection Manager, Mark Sykes has moved to Te Whare Ō Taketake │Whakatāne Museum & Research Centre as the Manager Collections and Research.  Mark is a ringarehe (a deft weaver), and has worked on countless exhibitions at Te Papa, throughout the country and overseas with exhibitions like Whales │Tohorā.


The whānau of Mark Sykes before his pōhiri at Te Whare Ō Taketake, Whakatāne. Photographer Paora Tibble, Te Papa

For Mark, this is a return home. He comes from Matatā, which is about 24 km from Whakatane. I was privileged to attend Mark’s pōhiri to his new workplace. The pou tikanga for the iwi currently in residence at Te Papa, Rongowhakaata, also attended the pōhiri to show their gratitude for the work that Mark had done to support the exhibition Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow.

Mark, e hoki ki tō maunga kia purea koe e ngā hau o te kāinga, kia kauria ngā wai tuku kiri o Tarawera, ngā tai o Te Moana o Toi. Hoki atu rā e hika!


Taharākau Stewart, Te Herekiekie Herewini, April Nepia-Sua, Moana Parata, Mark Sykes, Awhina Tamarapa, Miriama Stewart. Photo courtesy of Awhina Tamarapa

I’ve been on the road with my colleagues Sally August (North Island Museum Development Adviser) and Vicki-Anne Heikell (Paper Conservator, National Preservation Office) meeting with kaitiaki across the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel.

When you get to see what our museum people can do or the stories of our past that they have to share, you get a sense of the passion that’s bubbling beneath the surface.

We visited Dean Flavell and Fiona Kean at the Tauranga Heritage Collection taonga storage facility. It was the first time that I’d met Dean, but I’d heard much about him. An accomplished carver, Dean has plenty of experience in the care, conservation and preservation of taonga Māori. Fiona told us that she had driven one of the steam engines in the collection.

Dean Flavell, Sally August, Fiona Kean, Vicki-Anne Heikell and myself at the Tauranga Collection Store. Photo courtesy of Paora Tibble, Te Papa

While we were in Tauranga, Vicki-Anne Heikell ran a Care and Management of Archives workshop at the Greerton Library. Libraries hold a different type of taonga, but archives are a space where museums and libraries connect. It was great to meet up with Māori librarians Ani Sharland and Anahera Sadler from Te Aka Mauri │Rotorua Library.

We also connected with Elisha Rolleston from the Tauranga Library. Elisha is a prime example of a mild mannered librarian who just happens to excel at the art of the Manu – a waterbombing technique where you land in the water in a “v”.

Also attending the workshop were two members of the Te Whare Tīrara o Te Rangihouhiri │Archive, Research and Dissemination Unit from Ngāi Te Rangi. We’ll be working with Ngāi Te Rangi on a taonga preservation workshop in the near future. 

Later in our trip, we got to Rotorua where we visited Haki Tahana and Raimona Inia who are volunteers presently working with on the Te Arawa Trust Board archives.

This trust was established in 1924 to administer, on behalf of Te Arawa, the annual annuity paid by the Crown for title to the beds of the Rotorua Lakes. The kōrero tuku iho held in this archive are a taonga for the people of Te Arawa. Vicki-Anne has given advice to this group before, so this was an opportunity to get an update and give more guidance for the future care of this archival collection.


Raimona Inia, Vicki-Anne Heikell, Haki Tahana and Paora Tibble. Photo courtesy of Paora Tibble, Te Papa

Rotorua Museum has been closed to the public since late 2016, following the Kaikoura earthquake. We met with Manaaki Pene and Catherine Jehly at the museum’s storage facility on Tallyho Street. While it is incredible to see all the taonga in Te Papa, it’s a whole other thing to see an amazing collection of taonga in storage, in their rohe. I was amazed by the collection. Pukaki is there, as are many other tīpuna of Te Arawa.

Like the crew back at the Tauranga storage facility, the team in Rotorua are able to dedicate more time to the collection while they are without a exhibition facility. They’re also looking at ways of bringing the community in.

From Rotorua we travelled to Murupara to meet up with Ngāti Whare. We caught up with Te Waitī Rangiwai and her team who are working on the archives of Ngāti Whare. We’re at a point in our history where various iwi have completed or are in the process of going through the Waitangi Tribunal. Many iwi are looking for support and training in the area of archives, this is where someone like Vicki-Anne Heikell with her expertise around the care of paper-based taonga can help.

It was great to catch up with Ngāti Whare. Photo courtesy Paora Tibble, Te Papa

The next day we visited Te Uru Taumatua, in Taneatua. Here we met with Carly Rangiaho who is the manager of Te Whare Puri, the Archives and Research unit of Tūhoe.

Outside Te Uru Taumatua. Photo courtesy of Paora Tibble, Te Papa

The last stop on our trip was in Ōpōtiki, we did a few meetings throughout the day. That evening, two of our crew had agreed to present a rapid fire talk at a Pecha Kucha event held at the Ōpōtiki Senior Citizens Hall.

Vicki-Anne Heikell delivered an awesome presentation on why she loves her job as a paper conservator. My one was titled ACCESS, in the context of mana taonga. Interestingly enough, we both used images of the late Mina McKenzie and Cliff Whiting. The influence of kaitiaki such as Mina and Cliff can still be felt today.

Corban Te Aika speaks on behalf of Canterbury Museum at the whakatau for MA18 Conference attendees, 2018. Photographer Nancy Zhou, image courtesy of Museums Aotearoa

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge Corban Te Aika who is leaving Te Whare Taonga o Ngā Pākihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha │Canterbury Museum. Corban is a highly skilled young leader of his people, Ngāi Tūahuriri, who can hold his own on the marae and in whare taonga when required to bless, clear or cleanse the space through karakia. When the mauri of Te Matatini was handed from Ngāi Tahu over to the Te Upoko o Te Ika organising committee, it was Corban who was chosen to taki karakia. In te ao Māori, this is no small feat.

When Migoto and I facilitated The Role of Māori in Museums workshop held in Christchurch last year, it was Corban who gave the Kāi Tahu context for our hui.

Nō reira, Corban, e te hoa, e te uri o Kāi Tahu, o Ngāi Tūahuriri, nā koutou tō tātau Kāhui Kaitiaki i manaaki ki tō marae, ki Tuahiwi. Ahakoa wehe atu koe i te whare taonga nā, e kore te taonga i a koe e mahue atu. Kei te mana, kei te ihi, kei te wehi, kei te tapu a ō tīpuna, kei te mihi ake!

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