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Centennial Exhibition souvenir tray

Souvenir Tray, New Zealand Centennial Exhibition
Souvenir Tray, New Zealand Centennial Exhibition 1939, Maker unknown, England. Purchased 1980 with Minister's discretionary funds. Te Papa

This souvenir from the 1939–40 New Zealand Centennial Exhibition portrays Maori as a primitive people locked in the past. It is also culturally offensive because it places the head, a particularly tapu (sacred) part of the body, alongside food, which is considered noa (common).

Many Pakeha (European New Zealanders) of the time wouldn't have recognised the inappropriateness of this depiction or really understood the situation of Maori. For most Pakeha, the centenary was a coming of age rather than an opportunity to reflect on the Crown's obligations under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.

Read more about the Centennial Exhibition

© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.