April 09, 2014
Taonga maintain tribal links
An expert on museums and taonga says Maori belong to their ancestral treasures, not the other way round.
A row has broken out in Wellington about a 250 year old canoe prow which was removed from Te Papa by a member of the Love whanau and put up for auction.
Other Te Atiawa members say the whanau was just the trustee for a tribal taonga, and they have no right to sell it.
Former Auckland Museum Maori curator Paora Tapsell, who now teaches at Otago University, says it’s a sign of how things have changed since the carving was placed in the Dominion Museum 50 years ago.
"A taonga was probably viewed more as an ancestor or associated with an ancestor, something to which you belonged rather than owned, and we have this whole issue of trusteeship, that’s probably the best way to translate it back into English. The taonga is a symbol of landscapes to which we belonged, to which we depended on to survive," he says.
Paora Tapsell says museums and iwi need to tackle issues around trusteeship, particularly for taonga that is bought back.
FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH PAORA TAPSELL CLICK ON THE LINK
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