Exhibition and film make July huge month for Tuhoe

Two significant cultural events in July emphasise the strong connections between Tuhoe and the Presbyterian Church.

Whakatane Museum will host a five-week exhibition entitled Hihita and Hoani: Missionaries to Tuhoe. Many valuable taonga gifted to missionaries will be on display at the exhibition, which coincides with the completion of the first stage of an upgrade of the museum.

At the same time, Auckland will host the premiere of Vincent Ward’s film The Rain of the Children, which tells the story of Puhi Tatu, who married the son of prophet Rua Kenana. Two of Puhi’s children where adopted by Presbyterian missionaries in Maungapohatu, with one becoming a long-serving minister of the Church

The Whakatane exhibition celebrates the lives of two well-known missionaries to Tuhoe, Sister Annie Henry and John Laughton. According to Museum curator Karl Chittam, this is one of the largest exhibitions that Whakatane Museum has displayed in many years, from their own collections. Both missionaries were gifted many valuable and ancient taonga by Tuhoe in appreciation for their years of service in the Urewera.

During preparation for the exhibition, museum staff travelled to Ruatahuna, Maungapohatu and Waikaremoana to meet the people who originally owned the taonga and seek their blessings for the exhibition. Accompanying the staff were a group of kaumatua from Te Aka Puaho (the Presbyterian Maori synod) led by the Rev Wayne Te Kaawa, who says: “I wanted the museum staff to go out and meet the people on their marae, discuss the future care and preservation of their taonga, and to give them a greater appreciation of what they held. It proved to be a worthwhile and emotional experience. The people and the taonga go together and should not be separated.”

Some of the taonga on display include: a gourd, considered to be one of the finest in the country, which came aboard the Mataatua waka from Hawaiki in 1350; a Kiwi feather cloak belonging to Te Kooti; the personal flag of Rua Kenana and a Kiwi feather cloak belonging to his son Toko, who was shot and killed in the police raid on Maungapohatu in 1916; a cooking pot that belonged to Captain James Cook aboard the Endeavour; and a carved clock originally intended for King George V. The Rev Te Kaawa has spent many hours during the past year researching the taonga’s histories, including how and why they came into the possession of the missionaries and eventually Whakatane Museum. 

The exhibition’s opening ceremonies will commence with a powhiri, followed by a traditional karakia by tohunga. Also included in the opening ceremonies will be the blessing of a book written especially for this exhibition by the Rev Wayne Te Kaawa.

During the exhibition a number of notable speakers will give open lectures on aspects of Tuhoe culture and history, including acclaimed historian Professor Judith Binney, who is author of Rua Kenana, Nga Morehu and Redemption Songs. Professor Binney will speak on the topic “Untold Stories: When the elders tell their stories” – a lecture that was originally presented in 2008 to mark the centenary of the Hocken Collection at Otago University.

Later in the year will two more permanent exhibitions will open in Ruatahuna and Taumarunui.

“It’s about telling our stories as Maori church over a 168-year period”, says the Rev Te Kaawa.

Hihita and Hoani: Missionaries to Tuhoe
Whakatane District Museum and Gallery
10am, Saturday 12th July 2008

For further information contact:

Mr Karl Chittam
Whakatane District Museum and Gallery
Ph 07 306 0505


Rev Wayne Te Kaawa
Ph 07 322 9228 (hm)
  07 308 5059 (wk)
email: wtekaawa(at)nettel.net.nz