I te ara taonga: Te mauri a Ranginui, the force of the skies

nā Migoto Eria, Pouwhirinaki ā-Iwi | Manager Iwi Development

Tēnā koutou e ngā whare taonga o te motu,

On this very rare occasion I’ve been given the mantle of writing the On the Road diary, in lieu of regular Iwi Development correspondent Paora Tibble, who is in the process of relocating his office to Gisborne.

There’s lots going on and many things to discuss, but firstly these words:

As the rain falls upon the earth, so too are the tears of Ranginui that fall upon Papatūānuku symbolic of his sadness, of his grief but delivering sustenance and life to mother earth.

The separation of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, we ask for Tamanuiterā to shine and allow light to enter the world, it is light that is knowledge.

Our aroha to the colleagues and whānau of Thérèse Angelo MNZM, Director of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Wigram, Christchurch.
Kia tau iho te manaakitanga me te rangimārie ki runga i a koutou.


Airspeed Oxford, a wartime trainer aircraft built in England 1945. On display at the Airforce Museum of New Zealand. Image supplied

Light is knowledge

Paora and I spent an intense week in Canterbury in July this year, running two Role of Māori in Museums workshops. The material we cover is part of the Service IQ New Zealand Certificate in Museum Practice.

Find out more about the New Zealand Certificate in Museum Practice

These workshops enable museum staff to discuss and ask about the role of Māori in museum practice and as you can imagine we have some very interesting cultural conversations.

What’s important for us as community outreach for the sector is igniting a relationship between institutions (museums, galleries) and their local iwi. Therefore representation and the voice of the local iwi at these workshops is critical, as many of the questions and situations that museum staff have will be the responsibility of local iwi, hapū and runanga.

The first of the two workshops in Ōtautahi was with the staff of Canterbury Museum. We were fortunate to have Corban Te Aika, Curator Māori at Canterbury Museum, to come and mihi to us, but also to take us on a journey of the local iwi landscape. Tēnā koe e Corban, otirā tēnā koutou o Ngāi Tūāhuriri. Corban shared with us his in-depth knowledge and range of experiences and perspectives as a Ngāi Tahu iwi working for Canterbury Museum.

Referenced in the mihi to Thérèse above you will see the phrase ‘it is light that is knowledge’. This is a line that Corban mentioned in his karakia, which takes me directly to a discussion that he shared with us, about post-quake Ōtautahi. The message in his kōrero as iwi was that there was a noticeable change in representation of Māori in Ōtautahi after the earthquake. There was a ‘Māori feel to the city’ and more of a willingness [from local businesses] to work in partnership with local runanga. This can be seen in Ōtautahi in the branding of local businesses, for example, and adopting Māori or ancestral landscape names recommended by iwi representatives.

Corban said, from the Ngāi Tahu perspective, this was an avenue to participate and an effective way of referencing traditional or original names to specific places throughout Ōtautahi. Just one example of this is Tūranga, the new central library in Ōtautahi. This is a name gifted by Corban’s iwi (Ngāi Tūāhuriri) and reflects the relationship with Whitireia, the traditional name for Cathedral Square.

Read more about the meaning of Tūranga on the Christchurch City Libraries website


Canterbury Museum staff after our workshop. Photo by Migoto Eria, Te Papa

Te mauri a Ranginui – the force of the skies

The second workshop was held at the Airforce Museum of New Zealand in Wigram. Participants arrived from the Airforce Museum, NZ Micrographic Services Ltd, North Otago Museum and The Great War Exhibition (Wellington).

Workshop participants at the Airforce Museum of New Zealand. Photo Migoto Eria, Te Papa

Paora asks participants at our workshops to share what expectations they have of the day’s session. Often responses range from ‘to learn more about things Māori’, ‘learn more about the Treaty’. One that I noted from this session was ‘I’m here because I’m wanting to do things the right way’. I understood that to mean, appropriately with iwi Māori, or even culturally appropriate. It’s hoped that participants can take one thing away with them after the workshop that is meaningful and useful for their museum practice.

Following each of the two workshops our South Island Museum Development Adviser Judith Taylor and I assessed some of the participants who were completing the Certificate in Museum Practice.

The assessments are done in an interview style, and there are often some interesting discussions during these. I wanted to wrap up this kōrero with sharing a response to one of the tasks in the assessment – Explain security and safety factors for taonga, especially ‘cultural safety’:

Paraphrasing from a shining example from one of the trainees – “… cultural safety requires tikanga is followed in relation to taonga because of their spiritual connections with iwi. Cultural safety requires museums to protect the mana, wairua and mauri of all taonga, as well as the welfare of staff and visitors.”

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