Māori culture is taking centre stage in Shanghai with the Tuku Iho | Living Legacy exhibition playing a major role in the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism.

The exhibition, developed and led by the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute based at Rotorua's Te Puia, is currently on display attracting large crowds in its first few days.

New Zealand's Ambassador to China Clare Fearnley was among those who attended the exhibition opening last week, and said the exhibition demonstrated the strength of relations between the two countries and helped to stimulate an interest in New Zealand.

The opening of Tuku Iho also marked the start of New Zealand Week in Shanghai – a week dedicated to turning the spotlight on Kiwi culture, products and creativity.

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NZMACI general manager Eraia Kiel said the Shanghai exhibition was particularly special because China was the very first place the exhibition was showcased in 2013.

Ken Raureti and New Zealand's Ambassador to China Clare Fearnley. Photo / Supplied
Ken Raureti and New Zealand's Ambassador to China Clare Fearnley. Photo / Supplied

"It is a real honour to return, six years later, and show the evolution of this exhibition, which has not only captured the hearts of audiences around the globe but has opened doors for our tourism and trade partners.

"Tuku Iho is about connecting people and cultures. Our Māori culture seems to transcend boundaries which allows us to build relationships and forge partnerships," he said.

"People gravitate towards our culture and can sense it is something special."

The exhibition at Shanghai's Powerstation of Art features about 70 traditional artworks. It showcases traditional art forms in a number of ways including onsite wood, stone, bone and jade carving, as well as tā moko (traditional Māori tattoo).

Tuku Iho | Living Legacy exhibition in China. Photo / Supplied
Tuku Iho | Living Legacy exhibition in China. Photo / Supplied

It also includes performances by the Te Puia Kapa Haka group – a specially selected group of some of New Zealand's top kapa haka performers who will perform at a series of trade and tourism events.

Kiel said seeing the reaction of Tuku Iho around the world was hugely humbling.

"The people are just in awe and amazed at the beauty of the art, but also at the culture and the connection between the Māori culture and their own culture."

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Fearnley described Tuku Iho as a major cultural diplomacy initiative that had been welcomed around the globe.

She said there was huge interest in Māori culture in China and an experience like Tuku Iho had a real impact on people – from stimulating an interest in the country and its products, to travelling to New Zealand or sending a child to New Zealand to study.

"Perhaps most importantly it gives a taste of who we are. The Shanghai exhibition is a centrepiece of the 2019 China-NZ Year of Tourism.

"At the same time, Tuku Iho marks the launch of the 2019 New Zealand Week of activities, which celebrates and showcases New Zealand and New Zealand's premium products to Chinese consumers," she said.

Tuku Iho will be on display in Shanghai until November 15.