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Gisborne iwi Rongowhakaata launches new book at Te Papa

Gisborne iwi Rongowhakaata launches new book at Te Papa to mark first anniversary of iwi exhibition

The long-term iwi exhibition at Te Papa, Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow, has enthralled visitors since it opened late last year. Now a handsome book featuring more than 60 of its taonga alongside background essays in te reo Māori and English has been released to coincide with the show’s first anniversary.

The publication of Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow provides a stunning and permanent showcase of the strength of the historic and contemporary artistry of the prominent iwi from the Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne) region, whose leaders and creativity have made a big impact across Aotearoa New Zealand.

From a hoe (paddle) collected during the encounter between the Captain James Cook expedition and Tūranga people in October 1769 to the kotiate (hand weapon) made by master carver Raharuhi Rukupō in about 1868 and gifted to Te Kooti in recognition of his status as a leader, numerous precious taonga have been beautifully photographed for the book.

More recent works that illustrate the continuing expressions of the iwi’s creativity by present-day artists include Ngā Manu a Rongo, a specially commissioned three-dimensional, multimedia art piece from Professor Derek Lardelli and the hei tiki carved by Wi-Kuki Hewitt and Matthew Thornton, a direct descendant of Te Kooti.

Celebrated for centuries for the distinctive form of whakairo of its carvers, Rongowhakaata now also boasts a number of well-known contemporary weavers, painters, tā moko practitioners, composers, writers, orators and performers, and the book showcases their practice.

In its accompanying text, iwi representatives describe how the exhibition and the publication reflect the range and depth of Rongowhakaata expression over the centuries. “They show the achievements of our artistry, with its innovation and skill, which still excites an almost visceral urge to create within Rongowhakaata uri (descendants). They also exemplify the influences of places, connections and stories that resonate for us, the impact of light and shadow — ‘te takapau’, the finely woven mat, that informs the artistic process. We celebrate them as tangible expressions of Rongowhakaata identity.”

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