A new exhibition has opened at MTG in Napier of taonga pounamu (New Zealand nephrite jade) - a collection which has been in storage for many years.

To the evocative sounds of a karanga and karakia echoing through the galleries last Friday it was an emotional and exciting moment for the largely Mori community at the opening.

They have been looking forward to this taonga being seen in the light of day.

The Pounamu exhibition reveals taonga pounamu (treasures of New Zealand nephrite jade) from the collection of the Hawke's Bay Museums Trust Ruawharo T--rangi and explores stories of the use of this precious stone and its significance to Mori.


Now, displayed in the light that is reflected into the upstairs front landing, the colour of the pounamu is fresh and translucent and accentuates the variety of colour tone and patterns within the jade.

Hawke's Bay's collection of tools, pendants and weapons are very old and significant and some of them have stories of being handed down through many generations.

"We don't know all of the stories of these taonga," says the exhibition curator Tryphena Cracknell, "But they have been collected from throughout New Zealand by early collectors such as former Hastings Mayor George Ebbett Esq., and Sir Douglas Maclean, Member of Parliament for Napier from 1896-1899."

For early Mori, the discovery of South Island pounamu sparked a technological and artistic revolution - it is an incredibly hard stone and the taonga on display include early tools, adzes, fish hooks, tiki and pendants. There is a display case of mere pounamu which was both a weapon and a symbol of mana. In another display are more than 100 examples of pendants showing the diversity of stone colour and pattern.

Most of these pieces have not been on public display for a very long time and so it is a particularly exciting moment for Tryphena Cracknell the Curator Taonga Mori at the MTG to bring them out for MTG's summer visitors.

Future events at MTG:

Celebrate Children's Day by joining Tryphena Cracknell for a tour of the exhibition 'Pounamu'. Be inspired by the treasures on display to create your own taonga to wear home. This is on Sunday March 1, 10.30-11.45am. Please book - limited places available. $10/child.

Also on March 1 at 2pm, writer, historian, broadcaster and Curator Mori at the Alexander Turnbull Library, Paul Diamond (Ngti Hau, Te Rarawa and Ngpuhi) will be speaking in the Travel in Style exhibition - with his perspective on the fashion of the former MP, the late Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan.


Floor talk by Dougal Austin, (Kti Mmoe, Ki Tahu) curator Tonga Tturu 19-20th century at Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand who is coming to share his research into early hei tiki origins and styles with reference to some of the hei tiki in the Hawke's Bay collection. This is on Sunday, February 22, at 2 pm. Included in MTG entry.