E Tū Ake: Māori Standing Strong
E Tū Ake: Māori Standing Strong was an exhibition of ancient and contemporary Māori treasures that visited Mexico City.
E Tū Ake: Orgullo Māori poster and E Tū Ake: Māori Standing Strong cover.
E Tū Ake: Māori Standing Strong was an exhibition of almost 170 ancient and contemporary Māori taonga (treasures). The exhibits included sculptures, ornaments, everyday and sacred objects, flags, photographs and architectural elements. Some of the taonga dated back to 1500 and had never left New Zealand before. The exhibition also included contemporary graphics and audio-visual documents. It gave visitors the opportunity to see the work of artists like Fiona Pardington, Lisa Reihana, Robyn Kahukiwa and Shane Cotton.
The name E Tū Ake reflects the artistic depth and political aspirations of New Zealand’s Māori culture and people. Developed by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in 2011, the exhibition was shown briefly in New Zealand before touring to Paris, Mexico City and Québec.
E Tū Ake: Māori Standing Strong was designed to change the perception of international audiences towards Māori. Rather than simply portray folklore and beautiful objects, it showed that Māori have a resilient, innovative culture that has changed and adapted but is still living and thriving. The exhibition was driven by the concept of tino rangatiratanga – Māori self-determination over all things Māori. It had a continuum from people and stories of the past through to what’s happening today, and how they are connected. For example, it showed contemporary people with their taonga, such as the life mask of Chief Wiremu Te Manewha, made in the 1880s, placed alongside photographs of his living descendants who value this taonga as forming part of their identity and connecting them with past generations.
In the contemporary world, technology has radically changed how we live. E Tū Ake: Māori Standing Strong oﬀered an insight into a tribal culture that is responding to the challenges of modern life, oﬀering hope to other indigenous communities and showing how Māori have developed local solutions for global problems.
By involving New Zealand’s indigenous community, the museum sector has been using exhibitions to explore contemporary social and political realities since the late 1980s. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa bicultural policy means that Māori collections are preserved according to key Māori concepts, and Māori professionals work with the community that owns the taonga to develop exhibitions. For the French curators, E Tū Ake: Māori Standing Strong represented the first time that they had worked with iwi (tribes) on displaying their exhibits. By having face-to-face contact, the museum professionals from different countries gained a better understanding of and respect for different cultures.
The international tour marked the start of an exchange partnership between Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. This partnership is part of the desire that the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa has to attract exhibitions from new places (such as the Pacific, and Central and South America) and source exhibits directly, rather than from collections in bigger museums. The Mexican government exchanges exhibitions rather than charging or paying fees for them. This partnership meant that the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa could host Aztecs: Conquest and glory – an exhibition sponsored by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia about the people of Mexico.
E Tū Ake: Māori Standing Strong reached many people, including over 40,000 visitors in Mexico City. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa produced an exhibition publication in English, Spanish and French. It includes images and descriptions of over 100 of the most impressive taonga in the museum's collections. These include a carved whare tupuna (ancestral meeting house), a waka whakamaumaharatanga (canoe cenotaph), and unique items of jewellery, hand-held weapons, tools and finely woven cloaks.
E Tū Ake: Māori Standing Strong was funded by Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Government of New Zealand and the Embassy of Mexico in New Zealand.
Published 02 November 2023
“Exchanging exhibitions with Mexico means we can share objects that have similar kinds of cultural value to Mexicans and our people back home.”
2011 to 2013
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