Whiti Te Rā! The Story of Ngāti Toa Rangatira opens at Te Papa

9 June 2014

A dramatic dawn ceremony at Te Papa will open the exhibition Whiti Te Rā! The Story of Ngāti Toa Rangatira on 14 June 2014, sharing the iwi’s stories and its vision for the future on the national stage. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world will explore the exhibition over the next two-and-a-half years.

Developed over nearly two years, the exhibition takes its title from the final triumphant words of the famous haka Ka Mate, composed by the great chief Te Rauparaha after narrowly escaping death. The words herald the light of day, as the iwi look firmly ahead to a bright future.

Taku Parai, Chairman, Te Runanga o Toa Rangatira, said “This has been a significant project for the iwi and one which we have proudly created working in partnership with Te Papa. The ability for our people to come together on this occasion to share and celebrate the opening of Whiti Te Rā! The Story of Ngāti Toa Rangatira is momentous. We are able to share our stories through the display of many prized taonga, including the waharoa (gateway) to the exhibition, especially carved by Ngāti Toa artists such as brothers Tana and Herman Salzmann. It holds one of our key stories in that we maintain our traditional tikanga (beliefs) in a contemporary world.”

Precious taonga (treasures) combine with beautifully crafted, innovative multimedia experiences to weave centuries of history with deeply personal stories that will engage and challenge visitors from all walks of life. Visitors to the exhibition will also be able to explore the story behind Ka Mate and its creator, alongside current questions surrounding the use of the famous chant.

Arapata Hakiwai, Te Papa’s Acting Chief Executive and Kaihautū, said “Ngāti Toa hold tangata whenua status in the Wellington region, so the partnership between the iwi and Te Papa has been a close one in terms of both geography and the respect that has marked the collaboration. The exhibition tells a story of great resilience in the face of historical challenges, told using taonga of significant spiritual and cultural importance and exploring the actions of key Rangatira (Chiefs) of the iwi (tribe).”

Treasures, such as weapons wielded by great chiefs, reveal stories of great migrations and landmark battles. Others tell tales of legendary peacemakers and modern redress. Visitors will come face-to-face with Ngāti Toa warriors and groundbreaking politicians such as Sir Maui Pomare. They will discover works by some of the iwi’s pioneering artists and writers such as Buck Nin and Patricia Grace.

Awhina Tamarapa, the lead Te Papa curator working on the exhibition, said “It has been a great privilege to have supported Ngāti Toa in their vision for this exhibition. The iwi’s tenacity, foresight and strategic vision through history is inspiring for all cultures. The exhibition’s point of difference is the use of audio visuals and soundscapes developed with talented iwi members, and significant taonga held by Te Papa and within the iwi. We hope that people, no matter where they are from, will be inspired as a result of this exhibition.”

Mr Hakiwai said “We warmly welcome the iwi; to the exhibition floor and to our own museum family. Two Ngāti Toa Rangatira kaumātua (elders), will be in residence at Te Papa for the duration of the exhibition, guiding the museum’s ceremonial activities. They will work alongside our staff, sharing the stories that shaped Ngāti Toa, and which will in turn strengthen the bicultural foundation that lies at the heart of our national museum.”

Te Papa will hold a weekend of celebrations to mark the opening of Whiti Te Rā!TheStory of Ngāti Toa Rangatira. The museum opens to the public at 10am (14 June 2014) with a powerful haka performed by hundreds of Ngāti Toa iwi members. The following programme features a line-up of free events and entertainment, including theatre performances, musicians and a host of other artists.

Media contact

Cherie McQuilkin, Communications Adviser
+64 29 601 0010 or +64 4 381 7071