Last week my fellow curator Te Hira Henderson shared his plans for an exhibition focusing on Rongonui – famous people and taonga; and another on the stories of freezing works communities around the region.

To follow suit, I'm currently working on two projects for which public input would be much appreciated.

Scheduled for March next year, Project Banaba is an exhibition that illuminates the history of New Zealand's role in mining phosphate rock from the island of Banaba (and nearby Nauru) for production of superphosphate fertiliser.

The creator of the exhibition, artist and scholar Katerina Teaiwa, is of Banaban heritage and was raised on the island of Rabi.


Banabans were relocated en masse to Rabi between 1945-1983 as the mining rendered their homeland uninhabitable, bringing millennia of continuous occupation to an abrupt end.

This tale of other nations' material gain at the expense of Banabans is expressed in the words of Katerina's late sister, the esteemed scholar and poet Teresia Teaiwa: "Agriculture is not in our blood, but our blood is in agriculture."

Katerina was originally commissioned to create Project Banaba for presentation in Sydney last year, focusing on the Australian part of what was a tripartite Australia-NZ-UK governmental mining partnership.

She is now looking forward to developing it in response to the Hawke's Bay and wider NZ context, and would love to hear from those with related stories, objects, photographs and so on.

As superphosphate fertiliser has been – and remains – key to the industrial agriculture sector regionally and nationally, there are many potential angles to explore.

For example, New Zealand was first to develop the now globally standard practice of topdressing, as RNZAF pilots began utilising their planes and flying skills post-WWII to spread unprecedented amounts of superphosphate over extensive areas of land. While the nutrients added to the soil maximises grass growth and enables intensive farming, the resulting impacts on the health of soil and water systems are becoming increasingly clear.

Also under way is a proposed exhibition on the meeting of tangata whenua with those on board the HMS Endeavour, as part of the national Tuia – Encounters 250 programme commemorating the events of 1769. Exploring the immense significance and ramifications of whānau meeting Tupaia (the renowned Tahitian priest and navigator) as well as then-Lieutenant James Cook and the crew of Europeans, is a fascinating and important challenge.

Drawing on the knowledge of mana whenua and others with insightful perspectives on this kaupapa will be vital to achieving a compelling and educational display.


Our exhibition proposal aims to centre the stories of this place, expressed primarily through contemporary art and possibly older taonga. Te Kauwae-a-Māui is a focal point: the exhibition would give insight into the significance of the headland's original name, how it came to be known to many as Cape Kidnappers, and why this year its official name has been altered from the English name alone to Cape Kidnappers / Te Kauwae-a-Māui.

All three MTG curators plan to work on this project together, developing the exhibition alongside the community. If you're interested in contributing, please contact either myself at, Te Hira Henderson at, or Gail Pope at

* Pecha Kucha. Tuesday, November 13, 6pm in the MTG Century Theatre. Tickets $7 (cash only on the night).

* Public Art Guided Tour with Art Curator, Jess Mio. Thursday, November 15 at 12pm, meet in the MTG front foyer. Free event, all welcome.

* Kelvin Cruickshank Live (Soul Food). Friday, November 16 7pm in The MTG Century Theatre. Tickets available from Ticketek.

*Jess Mio is curator of art at the Museum Theatre Gallery (MTG) Hawke's Bay.