24 Apr 2012

Tangonge returns to Tai Tokerau

9:19 pm on 24 April 2012

One of New Zealand's most ancient and significant artefacts, usually on permanent display at Auckland War Memorial Museum's He Taonga Maori gallery, is returning to Tai Tokerau.

Carved from totara and dated between the 14th and 16th centuries, Tangonge was discovered in 1920 when Lake Tangonge, between Kaitaia and Ahipara, was drained.

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The carving travelled to Pukepoto marae on Tuesday before travelling to the Te Ahu heritage centre in Kaitaia where it will spend the rest of the year as an exhibition piece.

Chair of Te Runanga o Te Rarawa, Haami Piripi, says housing the taonga in the centre will ensure that all people of the rohe can have an association with it and its significance as a national treasure.

Auckland War Memorial Museum director Roy Clare says the return of the carving is recognition of the bond the taonga forges between the museum as its custodian, the people of Te Rarawa, its spiritual guardians and Te Ahu Heritage Centre.

She says the taonga is of huge significance to people in the Far North; the carving is also seen as a very important work because it shows the evolution of Maori art from its origins in Polynesian styles.