Heritage is about how we value and engage with aspects of the past in the present day.
Heritage includes cultural sites, which are places where heritage is preserved, interpreted and made accessible to the public. These include archaeological sites, museums, galleries, libraries, archives, exhibitions, cultural landscapes and historical buildings.
Heritage also includes forms of traditional cultural expression, which are activities, events and practices that are enacted or performed to keep historical legacies alive. These include language, and traditional cuisine, arts, crafts, festivals and celebrations.
By collecting, displaying and performing creativity from the past, heritage enables us to be innovative; it inspires contemporary creations that future generations will enjoy.
Heritage sites, many of which are free, are some of the most accessible places for the public to engage with creative products and services. Each year, New Zealanders make millions of visits to museums, galleries and historic sites, and regularly take part in a diverse range of cultural festivals and celebrations.
Through designed experiences such as exhibitions, events, and educational programmes, heritage sites and organisations in New Zealand can promote better understanding and appreciation of Latin American culture. Many of New Zealand’s heritage institutions – especially museums, libraries and galleries – are already working internationally, or would like to. They know that working with insitutions in other cultures enables us to exchange professional knowledge and expertise. It also gives New Zealand the opportunity to share its creative products globally, and bring stimulating new cultural experiences to our local audiences.
“Heritage tells us about our identities, traditions and values. When we explore and take part in the cultural heritage of others, we go beyond superficial stereotypes and clichés, and come to understand them better. We build mutual respect and empathy, which is crucial for working together to tackle current issues and imagine a better future.”
Working together on hosting exhibitions is the most common way that New Zealand and Latin American countries have collaborated on heritage projects. This includes single artist shows (such as Nicolás Paris: ko ngā herenga kei waenga i a tātou, lo que nos une, what connects us), through to large touring exhibitions (such as Kermadec: Art Across the Pacific); exhibitions at regional museums and galleries (such as Te Manawa in Palmerston North) through to major metropolitan institutions (such as Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa); and exhibitions focusing on indigenous cultural expression (such as Legado Vivo Māori – Tuku Iho) through to immersive digital media (such as Amazon – Raised Up Sky ).
Currently, New Zealand’s strongest heritage links are with Brazil, Chile and Mexico, but our joint projects have also involved Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.
One of our earliest heritage projects involving Latin America was Portrait of Mexico, which was an exhibition of 35 centuries of Mexican art that toured New Zealand in the 1970s. At the time, it was one of the largest exhibitions that New Zealand had ever seen. Four decades later, a close relationship between Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa resulted in exchanging two landmark exhibitions: E Tū Ake: Māori Standing Strong and Aztecs: Conquest and glory.
On a smaller scale, creatives from New Zealand and Latin America regularly meet up and work together through festivals, books, websites and other projects that enable them to share traditional creative expression with audiences, through film, dance, storytelling and theatre.
Introduction by Dr Lee Davidson, 2023