My Article - Bringing Maori Culture to Holland
Trip Start Oct 18, 2010
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"Bringing Māori Culture to Holland" Article in the Holland Times Newspaper.
Leiden is now home to the first ever Māori waka canoe as part of a new exhibit at the Museum Vokenkunde. MARTINA MCAULEY talks to curators about bringing the traditions
of New Zealand to the Netherlands.
For the first time ever, Māoris will be making a traditional canoe or waka, which will stay specifically in Leiden and be used by non- Māoris
Museum Volkenkunde, otherwise known as the National Museum of Ethnology, raises awareness and curiosity about cultural diversity and provides insight into the differences, similarities and interdependence of cultures.
“We are in the process of rebranding ourselves as an expedition museum, so that when people come here, they can go on a journey of discovery, exploring different cultures and religions from around the world,” says Fanny Wonu Veys, the museum’s curator for Oceana.
Volkenkunde has an extensive range of permanent and temporary exhibitions, but for the forthcoming period, the museum focus attention on the first inhabitants of New Zealand - the Māori.
The Mana Māori Exhibition is an interactive, family exhibition where you discover everything about the Maoris from their country to their weaving, art and family treasures
Children can especially enjoy the exhibition with the Hongi, the traditional nose greeting and experiments with tattoo patterns. They even have their own exhibition entrance, where they learn that New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of us, giving them the feeling of travelling in time. There are also touch screens where they learn about the history of New Zealand and a kiwi bird which guides them through the museum.
Museum director, Steven Engelsman, was inspired by the vision of a waka being paddled under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, at a Māori Art Exhibition. He began talks in 2008 with Toi Māori Aotearoa, the national organisation for Māori art and artists. Engelsman approached them with the idea of building a waka for his museum, and in February of this year, thanks to the BankGiro Loterij, the sponsorship proposal was successful.
Previous events such as the return of a tattooed Maori head, had forged a relationship with New Zealand. Human heads were exchanged for muskets in the 19th century and one of these became a part of the Volkenkunde Museum collection. In 2005, after showing the head for a number of years, the Te Papa tongearoa Museum in New Zealand asked for its return and the request was honoured.“The current exhibition and waka project are a way of consolidating and deepening this relationship” says Veys.
The waka taua is 14 metres long and made from a 700-year old kauri tree. The ceremonial canoe, which is laden with power and status, or “mana” in Māori, was named Te Hono ki Aotearoa, meaning “Connected with New Zealand.”
Traditionally, it was used as a war canoe, with only warriors as crew. Thus, one of the ceremonial limitations connected to a waka taua is that only men can paddle.
Every time the waka taua is used, it will happen in close collaboration with Toi Māori, whose cultural property it is and will remain.
Njord Royal Rowing Club, based in Leiden, will work alongside Museum Volkenkunde staff to maintain the ceremonial waka while it’s in their care.
A second waka was also made for the museum, called the waka teetee kura. “It will be used as an educational tool to provide an opportunity for Dutch people to experience some aspects of Māori culture,” says Weys.
Already there are plans to use it in school programmes and various navigational events both within and outside the Netherlands.
During the month of August, four Māori carvers under the leadership of Takirirangi Smit, created carvings, called whakairo for the waka shelter, tauihu or prow carvings and the taurapa bow post for the canoe.
“Wood carving is very important for Māori because we don’t have a long history of reading or writing, so all our stories and philosophies are tied up in our carvings, which tell the history of our people,” Smit said in an interview with NOS News.
The exhibition launched on 19 October and will continue until May 2011. It is very important for the museum, as it is the first time that an exhibition of such importance and scale is being organised in the Netherlands.
“Future generations of New Zealanders and Dutch people living in New Zealand can look back and see the long-lasting connection between New Zealand and the Netherlands,” says Toi Māori’s Tamahou Temara.
The Mana Maori Exhibition. On view until 1 May 2011. Volkenkunde Museum, Leiden.
information visit: http://waka.volkenkunde.nl