An exhibition developed by Te Papa that celebrates a great Polynesian voyager's connections with New Zealand. Kupe is regarded by many iwi (tribes) as the ancestor who discovered this country. Kupe Sites, a touring exhibition from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, explores the stories of Kupe's encounter with New Zealand through names of various landmarks and places and even the name Aotearoa.

Some iwi tell the story of Kupe setting out from his homeland Hawaiki in pursuit of Te Wheke-a-Muturangi, a giant octopus. Others recount how Kupe, in love with his nephew's wife, took her husband fishing, left him out at sea to drown, then fled from the family's vengeance.

Whether he was the pursuer or the pursued, Kupe and his stories are of immense importance to the many iwi who trace their whakapapa (genealogy) back through him. While the stories vary, they all celebrate a remarkable voyager who settled a new land and charted a route through the Pacific for later navigators to follow.

Kupe Sites presents these stories through photographs of places from four areas that have strong traditions of links to Kupe – Northland, Wairarapa, the Wellington region, and the top of the South Island.


The exhibition has its origin in research undertaken for the exhibition Voyagers: Discovering the Pacific at Te Papa in 2002. Kupe was one of four notable Pacific voyagers whose achievements were celebrated in that exhibition. Te Papa researchers, along with photographer Michael Hall, visited the four areas and worked with iwi there to capture these powerful images.

Kupe Sites offers visitors a unique encounter with New Zealand's past and reveals the significance of landscape and memory in portraying a key figure in the country's history.