CURATORS at London’s National Maritime Museum are consulting Maori about the provenance of ancient weapons collected from New Zealand during explorer Lieutenant James Cook’s first and second voyages. The artefacts will be exhibited in 2018.
Members of London-based haka group Ngati Ranana have posted photos of the artefacts on social media in the hope that friends and whanau in New Zealand can provide details about them.
Former Manutuke man and chairman of Ngati Ranana, Lewis Whaitiri, told Radio New Zealand he and members of the haka group had seen tewhatewha, kotiate, patiti and a taiaha.
“They were tupuna (ancestors). You could feel the mauri when you walked in.
“They had been stored away for so long, some of them had not seen a Maori face or been touched by Maori since the museum first had them. You could feel the taonga crying for home.
“You could feel the mana and the mauri that sits within those taonga and just how happy they were to be in Maori hands again.”
Former curator Jody Wyllie told Radio New Zealand that Gisborne iwi Rongowhakaata had been on the lookout for confiscated taonga.
“Some of the earliest examples of the Turanga style of carving and painting, which is particular to the Ngati Kaipoho hapu of Rongowhakaata, was taken by Cook.
“Some of our earliest examples exist in places like the British Museum and the British Maritime Museum. We are very interested in what he did.”
Along with examination of the patterns of the carvings, clues about where artefacts came from could be found in Cook’s diary, he said.
“It’s a bit like CSI piecing it together. It’s a very long and arduous process. One thing I am very mindful of is claiming other people’s taonga and that’s the risk you run when you’re dealing with mahi like this.”
About 20,000 Maori artefacts are thought to be held in foreign museums around the world.