The haunting call of the mysterious huia once echoed through the mists of Aotearoa, but it hasn't been heard in more than 100 years.

Now, tragically extinct, the native bird was considered sacred by Maori, yet suffered the fate of being too beautiful - killed so its feathers and beak could adorn the well-to-do, from the cloaks of chiefs to the dresses and handbags of settlers.

There are very few preserved and intact examples of huia left in New Zealand, so the inclusion of one as the centrepiece of an upcoming exhibition opening night at Levin's Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-po is a special occasion for Horowhenua, organisers say.

The exhibition is called Mangahuia, which means "stream of the huia" and was created by local writer Ashleigh Collis and photographer Mariana Waculicz to deliver a powerful message through the mediums of photography and storytelling.


Aimed at instilling more pride in our rivers and the natural environment, Waculicz says the idea is to remind the community of its history and "how lucky we are to have our natural environment so close to home".

The bird's call was reputed to sound like its name, which in turn sounds like the question "who are you?" - a concept the exhibition investigates.

The last huia sighting, more than a century ago, was in the Tararua mountain range, which is where the artists have geographically set their project - an ongoing series of photo shoots at the Ohau river, where the water emerges from the mighty mountain range behind.

The location is popular with locals who like to reconnect with their natural environment there, which Collis and Waculicz have used as a topic, capturing raw moments of different people experiencing a special bond with the water, native bush and surrounds.

"It's an intense thing to witness that, mindful of the ecological tragedies that stroke the ancient flora and fauna of the region," Waculicz said.

"The Ohau river corridor once echoed with the songs of the huia, and this is compelling and inspirational".

Alongside the imagery, words written by Collis are intended to start a conversation with people about their thoughts on the natural environment and its protection.

Poetic and experiential in style, the evocative stories are designed to promote moments of mindfulness about what we are currently doing and what we should be doing regarding the natural world around us, Collis said.

"We want to issue a challenge about evaluating our day-to-day habits and being more mindful of the wildlife that exists all around us and is slowly being lost," she said.

"If you can find a connection with nature you can find a connection with yourself."

The exhibition, which was made with the help of a grant from Creative NZ, will be launched with an opening event at Te Takere, which the community is invited to, on Friday October 6 from 6.30pm to 9pm.

There will be a powhiri, live music and presentations, with complimentary nibbles and local beer and wine.

Entry is by koha, and RSVPs are requested to
Mangahuia runs until Tuesday October 31.

Admission is free.