Pātaka taonga

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The beautiful and the deadly

This structure is called a pātaka taonga, a storehouse of treasures. It contains gorgeous adornments and deadly weapons from places such as New Zealand and Fiji.  Only chiefs and those with mana (prestige and authority) owned the striking status symbols displayed here.

Artisans made impressive weapons from large bones and fashioned teeth into delicate ornaments. The rareness and beauty of whale bone made the resulting objects even more precious.

Find out more about Pātaka taonga

At the exhibition

Emphasise to your students that this is a modern interpretation of a storehouse for treasures. Get the students to explore this segment then gather them back to discuss the following questions and topics.

Questions for 5 to 10 year olds

  • Do you know what some of these objects are and what they are used for?
  • Where do some of these objects come from?
  • What is your favourite item and why?
  • What is it made from and how old is it?

Questions for 10 years old and over

  • Why was whale bone so valuable to many different cultures?
  • Why was whale bone used instead of other materials? What other materials could be used to make the items in this section?
  • Find the items that have come from the Polynesian regions. How do they differ form the Māori items? What is your favourite Polynesian item? What is your favourite Māori item?

Teachers’ notes

In this section are examples of many different uses of whale bone and tooth, including adornments, weapons, and reference to genealogy. 
Whale bone is an important resource to many different cultures, as it is very hard but can be carved into intricate items.
People who used these treasures would have had a great deal of mana (prestige and authority).


Related classroom activities

The beautiful and the deadly

This structure is called a pataka taonga, a storehouse of treasures. It contains gorgeous adornments and deadly weapons from places such as New Zealand and Fiji.  Only chiefs and those with mana (prestige and authority) owned the striking status symbols displayed here.
Artisans made impressive weapons from large bones and fashioned teeth into delicate ornaments. The rareness and beauty of whale bone made the resulting objects even more precious.

Challenge for the students

Create your own Taonga or treasure and display the treasure in a classroom exhibition.

Before visiting the exhibition

Discuss treasures and the different types of treasures. 

Discuss items that may be treasures to some people but not to other people.

Discuss what could be made and the tools and materials that would be needed to create their own treasures or objects.

Discuss the function of a museum.

During the visit to the exhibition

Make notes on the treasures found in the Pataka Taonga segment in the exhibition. Where do the treasures come from and what are they used for?

Make sketches for ideas of a treasure that the students can make.

Make notes and sketches on the display of treasures in this exhibition.

Make notes and sketches of the labels that are used to display the treasures in this exhibition.

After the visit to the exhibition

Create a classroom exhibition.

Source tools and materials for the individual students to make their treasures.

Prepare an area in your classroom for the exhibition.

Create the treasures.

Create a method of displaying the treasures eg plinths, cases and mounts

Create labels for the treasure considering.

What the object is, what the communication of the label is, dates, names, materials used, associated images and information that you would like the visitor to learn about your object.

Create graphic elements for the labels such as photos of the owner in action making the treasure.

Display the treasures to the school, perhaps charging people to see the treasures.

Other suggested learning experiences

  • Create you very own classroom museum online with your treasures featured, including photos of the owner and methods of making the treasures and of course the treasure and labels.
  • From the whales exhibition research one of the items make notes and sketches then produce a poster of your item or report back to the class.
  • Interview one of the students about how they made or acquired their object, giving a description of what it is and how they displayed their object.