Today MTG Hawke's Bay Tai Ahuriri reopens with two new exhibitions. Kuru Taonga: Voices of Kahungunu, Our history, our place, our people, is one of them.
Kuru Taonga speaks of Hawke's Bay history before it became Hawke's Bay.
It gives voices to our stories, to the events of a time before Māui pulled Te Ika from the ocean depths and he formed Te Matau-a-Māui.
It tells of a time, long before the migration of a people who became Māori, when Rangitāne and Ngāi Tara with others were living here.
Of how Te Matau-a-Māui became the fish-hook of Admiral Edward Hawke, renamed Hawke's Bay from on board the HMS Endeavour by Cook 1768-71, an encounter which eventually shaped Aotearoa into New Zealand. Incidentally Hawke never came here.
Kahungunu the man, the ancestor, was a peaceful chap. He was a producer, engineer, provider, protector, diplomat, and a soulmate to many, many women. Through his activities with several high-ranking rangatira women, and other activities, he established links from Kaitaia in the far north, around Tauranga and Whakatāne, at Ōpōtiki, the East Cape, and along the coast line to Māhia.
It is not known what age Kahungunu reached, but he was an elderly gentleman when he died at his pā, Maunga-a-Kāhia, in Nukutaurua on Māhia Peninsula.
Today, his iwi Ngāti Kahungunu spreads from Wharerata Ranges, southern Tūranganui-a-Kiwa Gisborne, down the east coast of the North Island to the Rimutaka Ranges in southern Wairarapa, and on into the Hutt Valley, also known as Heretaunga.
At the Kuru Taonga gallery entrance, the exhibition starts from the beginning of creation, with whakapapa from Ionui the Creator. It descends down the generations through Ranginui and Papatuanuku, through Hawaiiki and "The Migration" to the birth of Kahungunu the baby boy, finishing with him as an old man at his final last soul-mate stop, Nukutaurua.
Listed in this whakapapa, from Ionui to Papa and Rangi, is a descent of only six reanga (generations). At this level, among the gods, six reanga will span a much longer time than in human years. From Papa and Rangi to the birth of Kahungunu himself, there is a descent of 46 generations. Continuing from Kahungunu down to me is a further 15 generations. This whakapapa links all living Ngāti Kahungunu directly back to Ionui the Creator - it applies to us all.
After Kahungunu this new exhibition continues with the mana of Rangatira Wahine, Queen Victoria, out of Mother England, who was herself three quarters German and married another German, her cousin Albert from Coburg, Germany. These two Germans married on February 10 1840, four days after Te Tiriti o Waitangi was signed with the natives of Aotearoa. This increased their property portfolio, acquiring the natives of Aotearoa as new British subjects in their new British home, New Zealand. It was a sizable wedding gift.
The exhibition also tells that Hawke's Bay, as a settlement, did not take hold until late in the piece, the 1850s, and it was Kahungunu chiefs who called out to Pākehā to come and settle here.
Kahungunu chiefs sold land, encouraging Donald McLean to settle Ngāti Pākehā here. Kahungunu iwi saw advantages with Pākehā and embraced the new world trade opportunities they brought as settlers.
Kahungunu were excited by Pākehā technologies that produced nails, axes, blankets, candles, and fermented grapes into wine. In Hawke's Bay for these reasons Kahungunu didn't go to war against the colonial settler, but chose to take an oath of protection to keep them safe from life-threatening outside forces.
Under the mantle of her majesty's service, and that of the Anglican Church, Donald McLean created Hawke's Bay.
He did this by implementing the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 which allowed for the confiscation of Māori land for settlers. The Native Land Court, established in1865, further allowed for the breaking up of native land into private ownership for settlers.
McLean's private collection, along with those of Ebbott and Black, formed the foundation of the museum's taonga collection, some of which can be seen on display in Kuru Taonga: Voices of Kahungunu, Our history, our place, our people.
• Te Hira Henderson is Curator Maori at MTG