18 Nov 2015

Technology helps iwi preserve taonga

5:13 pm on 18 November 2015

An East Coast iwi is developing an online museum to store its old photos, diary entries and artefacts scattered around the world.

Virtual storehouses and the growth of physical tribal museums has prompted a nationwide conference in Whakatāne for people to discuss the best way to preserve Māori treasures and artworks.

Arapata Hakiwai and Monty Souter

Arapata Hakiwai and Monty Souter Photo: RNZ/ Leigh Marama McLachlan

Māori art and heritage is no longer confined to the marae or city museum. More and more cultural centres led by iwi are emerging, displaying a vast range of tribal treasures.

Te Kenehi Teira from Whare Manaaki in Foxton said a group of weavers and carvers used the building to do their work, and there was also an exhibition space with carvings from whare tūpuna and other taonga.

Whare Manaaki has almost raised enough money to open a new whare next door, he said.

"We have nine hapu involved in the project.

"Each of the hapū will tell different stories at different times then keep changing it through all the hapū in that area."

Conservators were teaching representatives from 16 iwi about preserving photographs, carvings and other taonga.

But it was not just physical items up for discussion.

Hera Ngata-Gibson is part of a team developing a virtual museum for the East Cape tribe Te Āitanga ā Hauiti.

"Our artefacts, our taonga, our diaries, manuscripts, any recordings, they're all over the world in institutions and collections and what not.

"Why we established the digital repository Te Rauata is really to consolidate all of those things in one place before we lose more of it."

The C Company is a whare built a year ago next to Gisborne's Tairāwhiti Museum, which showcases photos of people involved in the Māori battalion.

Spokesperson Walton Walker said those at the hui were sharing ideas about how to get their artefacts overseas returned home.

"Just having mana motuhake over their taonga. But not to take it and hide it away again but to find out or learn about the best ways they can exhibit it in the way they want to."

Modern wharepuni building Te Wharewaka sits on the Wellington waterfront and is home to a cafe, conference rooms and a poignant display of carved waka.

It is just across from Te Papa, whose kaihautū is Arapata Hakiwai.

"We've had a lot of iwi come here that are just only embarking on their new projects, especially in the post treaty settlement phase."

"This is fantastic because iwi are starting to think about their cultural futures and setting up tribal cultural centres, so this has been invaluable because we're sharing and learning from experiences of what other iwi and hapū have done around the country.

The symposium ends today and workshops will be held tomorrow.