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These Maori Artists Have Banded Together for a Display of Undocumented Taonga at Wellington Museum

This exhibition is a treasure trove of taonga, collected by businessman George Pain hundreds of years ago.
By Emma Clark-Dow
November 30, 2023
By Emma Clark-Dow
November 30, 2023

A significant exhibition is about to launch at Wellington Museum, showcasing pieces of taonga that have gone undocumented in Māori culture — until now.

Te Ohonga: The Awakening will be on display from Saturday, December 9, and will present the taonga Māori collection of George Pain as well as a group of Māori artists' response to it.

Pain was a businessman from Martinborough who travelled through the east coast of the North Island in the late 1800s into the early 1900s collecting taonga along the way. Taonga is a treasure or material of significance within Māori culture, such as the haka or the language of te reo.

Wellington Museum commissioned the help of 19 contemporary Māori artists to add to the exhibition. The group helped museum curators to manaaki (protect) the taonga, using their knowledge to teach the team the significance of each item. The group then added to the collection with their own work, in response to what they learnt through exploring Pain's collection.

"The artists have not only enhanced our knowledge of the Pain Collection, they have created new works that awhi (support, embrace) the taonga and kōrero (speak) to the original makers," Te Ohonga co-curator Anna-Marie White said. White also represents Toi Māori Aotearoa, an organisation that supports the development of Māori art.

Pain's widow, Mary Pain, gifted her late husband's collection of taonga to the Wellington City Council in 1944, which was passed along to the Wellington Museum in 2004. Despite being in Wellington's possession for many years, the taonga was never documented.

"Te Ohonga is a waka huia, a treasure box, of Māori creativity in this region, and we extend the warmth and kindness offered by the artists to all visitors to the exhibition," White said.

Te Ohonga: The Awakening runs from Saturday December 9 2023–Monday, April 1, 2024, at 3 Jervois Quay, Wellington Central, Wellington Museum. The museum is open daily, from 10–5pm.

Published on November 30, 2023 by Emma Clark-Dow
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