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Twelve stunning Gottfried Lindauer portraits of Wairarapa rangatira will be at the heart of an ambitious new exhibition – ‘Te marae o Rongotaketake - Redressing our Kahungunu History’. The exhibition will  explore the past, present future of the Wairarapa iwi Ngaiti Kahungunu, and is due to open in April this year.

“Some of the Lindauer portraits have never been displayed in public before and one in particular is being lent by an early settler Pakeha family from South Wairarapa especially for the occasion,” says the show’s curator Haami Te Whaiti. Other portraits include those from Aratoi’s own collection which have recently returned from being displayed at Auckland Art Gallery for ‘The Maori Portraits: Gottfried Lindauer’s New Zealand’.

There are around 2,000 taonga linked to Wairarapa and north to Norsewood currently in museums in New Zealand and overseas, according to The Ngati Kahungunu-Tamaki Nui a Rua Trust. Reconnecting those taonga from outside the region, either temporarily for the exhibition or permanently, has been a major focus for Aratoi staff for the past two years.

“Last month I travelled to Napier to receive around 40 taonga for the show, and overseas items that we have sourced include an ornately carved wahaika or short club from the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles. This once belonged to Tamahau Mahupuku, a significant leader at Papawai Marae in the 1890s,” says Te Whaiti.

‘Rongotaketake’, from the exhibition’s title, can be translated as ‘enduring peace’. This echoes the fact that Ngati Kahungunu were committed to non-violence and Wairarapa was known in colonial times as ‘the bloodless province’ because no blood was spilled between Maori and Europeans here.

 “The idea of an enduring peace speaks to our future relationships with the Crown and the community here, just as much as it did to our ancestors back then,” says Te Whaiti. The exhibition coincides with the Treaty settlement process between Ngati Kahungnunu and the Crown being finalised.

“People – both Maori and Pakeha – will have the opportunity to understand Kahungunu history of this region, what is coming up in the settlement and why it is happening, through this exhibition,” he says.

There are plans to involve young Maori artists in a section on contemporary Kahungunu, celebrating visions for the future, and Rangitane, the other major iwi in the region will have an exhibition at Aratoi in the future.

Te marae o Rongotaketake - Redressing our Kahungunu History.  8 April - 3 September 2017.