Kiwi supermodel Rachel Hunter has thrown her support behind an exhibition showcasing Maori culture in the United States, saying it's critical the voices of indigenous cultures are heard around the world.

Hunter is one of several Kiwis based in California who visited the Tuku Iho | Living Legacy exhibition since it opened in Venice Beach last week and described both the display and the philosophy behind Tuku Iho as extraordinary.

"For Maori culture to be highlighted on the world stage is extremely important," she said. "It's showing other countries what we get to see at home."

She said the warmth of the culture and strength of Maori was particularly unique and it was great to see the voice of Maori shared around the world.


Fellow Kiwi actors Millen Baird and Outrageous Fortune star Siobhan Marshall have also visited the exhibition, and admit the exhibition made a lot of the crowd homesick.

Baird said it was cool to see "a little country at the bottom of the world" showcasing its culture in the United States.

Developed by the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI), Tuku Iho fuses traditional and contemporary culture with more than 70 works of art handcrafted by students and teachers from NZMACI, based at Te Puia in Rotorua.

The exhibition features in-situ carving, live ta moko, kapa haka and contemporary performances and presentations. For the first time pounamu (greenstone) carving will be carried out during the exhibition.

Project director Karl Johnstone said an initial display on the famous Santa Monica Pier captured the attention of crowds and highlighted the interest people have in discovering more about international cultures and their artistic practices.

He said there had been significant interest in the exhibition and various events associated with it, including kapa haka displays.

The Tuku Iho | Living Legacy exhibition is supported by accomplished contemporary New Zealand artists and musicians Rob Ruha, Majic and Teeks who are performing as part of the exhibition.