Kura Pounamu: Our Treasured Stone
Kura Pounamu: Our Treasured Stone tells the story of how pounamu is formed, its significance for Māori and its enduring value for generations of New Zealanders.
Hei tiki (pendant in human form). Te Aika whānau, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Ngāi Tahu. Image: Maarten Holl. Te Papa (ME015686)
Kura Pounamu was developed by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, working closely with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.
Generations of Ngāi Tahu iwi made the arduous journey over Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana (the Southern Alps) to collect pounamu – a resource they traded with other iwi and shaped into tools and adornments.
The exhibition has been enhanced by a section showcasing the importance of Waitaha (Canterbury) as the gateway to Te Tai o Poutini (The West Coast) and Kaiapoi Pā as the centre of the pounamu trade.
The exhibition features pounamu shaped into adornments, tools and weapons by both historic and modern carvers and from iwi across New Zealand. It also showcases pounamu in its raw natural form – including five large boulders from Big Bay in South Westland from the Canterbury Museum collection.
The earliest pounamu pieces in the exhibition are probably the toki (adze blades), tools used for working wood. Some are thought to originate from the early days of settlement, some 700-800 years ago, and to replicate East Polynesian adze shapes.
Each of these treasures bears the mana or prestige of its maker, of the generations who have used or worn it and of occasions where it was present.
The exhibition known in New Zealand as Kura Pounamu, Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand was shown at Te Papa from September 2009 to July 2011. It was then reworked for touring internationally and was shown at five venues in China from November 2012 to June 2014 and in Paris in 2017.
List image: Hei tiki (pendant in human form), 2008, made by Lewis Tamihana Gardiner of the iwi Ngāi Tahu, Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa, and Te Whānau-a-Apanui, New Zealand. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (ME024001)