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A fresh perspective on local history and culture


Hamilton displays a journey across the years (Photo Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, June 14, 2023

With a new and revamped look of the Waikato Museum, Hamiltonians are now being welcomed with several exhibits, making a perfect itinerary for a cold winter day.

Local history is all set to come alive with a fresh perspective at the Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, with the relaunch of ‘Shaping Hamilton- Huringa Kirikiriroa’. The refreshed long-term exhibition explores Hamilton’s history through Maori taonga, historical artefacts and objects, photographs, and contemporary art.

In line with the curriculum

The updates to ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ coincide with the arrival of the new school history curriculum. The result of years of consultation by the Ministry of Education, ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories/Te Takanga o Te Wā’ is now being implemented in all schools and kura. Waikato Museum provides educational programmes and professional development to enhance the teaching and delivery of this new framework.

The thought-provoking exhibition delves into multi-layered stories and showcases key events that have shaped Hamilton, from the arrival of Waikato Tainui to the present-day landmark events.

Coincide with the arrival of the new school history curriculum (Photo Supplied)

Collaborative effort

Representatives from local hapu, Ngaati Wairere, have collaborated with Museum staff to include taonga which have significance to tangata whenua in addition to objects from Hamilton’s recent history.

“Our exhibition ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ delves into the region’s multi-layered past. As an institution, and as individuals, we are striving to embrace the complexity of the stories which have shaped Aotearoa New Zealand. Being able to work closely with members of Ngaati Wairere has been an enriching experience for us all,” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts.

“History is a continuous process, and this is why the Museum’s collection continues to grow. For example, our recent acquisition of the decommissioned Von Tempsky Street sign demonstrates changing attitudes towards the city’s colonial past. ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ presents our visitors with the opportunity to learn and engage with the past as we look to the future.”

Start of a journey

Revered Ngaati Wairere historian Wiremu Puke described the opening of the relaunched exhibition as “the start of a journey”.

“The taonga on display have been brought together to showcase the once thriving tradition of Ngaati Wairere carving. This was observed by Dr Edward Shortland in 1842 when he visited Kirikiriroa Paa and noted carved palisades that protected the cultivations of the hapu’u on both sides of the river,” said Mr Puke, who has iwi affiliations to Ngaati Wairere, Ngaati Porou, and Ngaapuhi.

“The carvings in ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ are considerably older and date back to the time when stone tools were used. We have revived these sacred patterns on the frontage of the main paataka inside the Te Parapara Garden at Hamilton Gardens.”

“We hope in time that a larger exhibition will be planned for the city and the nation where Ngaati Wairere can be seen as a taonga for the world to see and no longer hidden away,” said Mr Puke.

New features on display in ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ include an exceptional 2.3-metre paepae (carved wooden beam) which has never been exhibited before and demonstrates the significance of whakairo (carving) to this region.

The paepae was retrieved in 1983 during earthworks in a wetland area once known as Te Raratuna O Tutumua, located north of Pukete Paa (Braithwaite Park). It is made from totara wood and was likely carved in the 1700s. When Waikato Museum received this taonga, it was broken into many fragile pieces and required extensive conservation work.

Other items in the exhibition range from a black silk mourning dress worn by a pakeha settler during the 1860s, to a vibrant digital artwork titled “Wai” by installation artist Gina Ferguson and electro-acoustic artist Dale Cotton.

Interactive Display

The pronunciation and meaning of Maori place names in the area are brought to life with a new interactive feature. Presented as a large map of Hamilton, at the push of a button visitors can hear an audio recording of locations such as Horotiu or Waitawhiriwhiri Gully. The pronunciation guide includes the translation or story behind the name, providing details about the sites as well as how to say the name correctly.

Waikato Museum’s exhibition ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm and entry is free.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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