Paul Tapsell, Māori writer, academic, and Tumuaki/Director Māori for the Auckland Museum, compares the journey of taonga within tribal boundaries to the undulating flight path of the tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae): ‘Each taonga represents a single genealogical thread, stitching sky to earth, gods (atua) to mortals, ancestor to descendant, generation to generation, in the descending pattern of the tui’s flight.’
Tapsell also uses a comet’s trajectory to describe the journey of a taonga outside its tribal origins, and its celebrated journey amongst descendants when it reappears in their lives.
Both metaphors aptly describe the significant journeys and reconnections that we have experienced with certain taonga held by Te Papa. One such recent connection is a kahu waero made by Te Wharetoroa Tiniraupeka, of Ngāti Whakaue, about the turn of last century.
This cloak has had a remarkable journey, which was first uncovered as a result of research by staff member Ross O’Rouke. His delving into the history of a ‘curio merchant’, Sygvard Jacob Dannefaerd (1854-1920) and work on an exhibition of Te Arawa kuia (elder women) weavers, Ngā Puna Roimata o Te Arawa, in 1993 uncovered a fascinating story. Recent research conducted for the Icons Ngā Taonga publication invited greater opportunity to explore the circumstances leading up to the cloak’s purchase by Te Papa in 1990.
The story of the cloak can be read in Icons Ngā Taonga, published by Te Papa Press.