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Lifting the cloak on Maori
By AMY JACKMAN
I am hoping people will come
in here and be proud of their
heritage. Then I will know we
Lead Maori curator
Gently does it: Textiles conservator Rangi Te Kanawa, mount maker Penny Angrick and collection manager and
weaver Mark Sykes gently place a 150-year-old cloak on a custom-made mount.
Photo: AMY JACKMAN
It has taken six years of
dedicated work by a small team
of people to get Te Papa's latest
exhibition, Kahu Ora: Living
Cloaks, ready to open on June 8.
Most exhibitions at Te Papa are
the culmination of one-and-a-half or
two years' work.
Living cloaks is based on the
Whatu Kakahu: Maori Cloaks book
published last year by Te Papa and
the National Weavers Collective.
Research for the book started in
Lead Maori curator Awhina
Tamarapa said after doing six years
of research for the book, creating an
exhibition was natural.
We had all this information and
the networks we had made by see-
ing weavers around the country.
seemed silly not
to have an exhi-
bition and put
process at Te
Papa is there is
a team of people who work on dif-
We have a curator with the
ideas and building the context and
We have designers, conserva-
tors, mount makers producing the
mounts, writers to hone the writing
for the labels and more.''
When Tamarapa gave me a
sneak peek in the exhibition room,
normally top-secret until opening
day, she was noticeably emotional
about seeing her team's work set
At the moment I am just worried
and nervous. I am hoping people
will come in here and be proud of
their heritage. Then I will know we
The exhibition room on the fourth
floor of Te Papa is changed com-
pletely for every exhibition.
The walls are repainted and new
display cases are constructed or
recycled from previous exhibitions.
The display cases for Kahu Ora:
Living Cloaks were used for the
Unveiled: 200 years of wedding
fashion exhibition. They are
designed to ensure a stable environ-
ment for fabrics.
Tamarapa said one of the main
things the team considers when
designing the space is that an exhi-
bition is an experience.
You want them to be inspired
and learn about history and about
the collections -- you want to capti-
vate the audience,'' she said.
It is in how you place an object,
the lighting, what they read about
it. You have to look at the overall
layout of the show, consider differ-
ent segments and their themes.''
Head designer Lesley Fowler said
when the designers decided on the
colours, fonts, and other visual
elements, they focused strongly on
bringing the concept to life.
There's lots of little details that
help give life to the exhibition.
We try and give it an emotive
and lifelike feel,'' Fowler said.
For this exhibition we got our
first clue about what we needed
from the title. It is clear that living'
is a big part of it.''
Many exhibitions at Te Papa
incorporate interactive elements.
The point of difference with this
exhibition is that we will have
weavers in an area central to the
exhibition and people will be able to
see cloaks being made,'' Tamarapa
It is that
ment. The weav-
ers being able to
engage with the
public creates an
We felt that
because the exhibition is called
Kahu Ora: Living Cloaks. They are
symbols of mana in our culture.
When you touch something or
you engage physically with it, you
will learn so much more.''
For Kahu Ora: Living Cloaks, the
biggest challenge was the age and
fragility of many of the cloaks, some
of which are more than 150 years
Textiles conservator Rangi Te
Kanawa said the 50 cloaks had to
be handled as little as possible.
I was quite clear from the begin-
ning that some of them would have
to be lying flat. Their condition
means we should give them an
overall support, which is why they
are on board.
Also we were quite limited with
our handling. We worked on a once-
only approach, so templates were
Mount maker Penny Angrick has
designed stands that enable each
cloak to be hung on the best form
for its shape. The stands were
recently presented at a mount
makers conference in Chicago.
The work does not stop when the
Tamarapa and her team will be
giving talks, guided tours, running
education programme and ensuring
the taonga stay safe. The exhibition
team also liaise with Te Papa's web
designers, marketing and media
staff to promote the exhibition.
Kahu Ora: Living Cloaks,June8to
October 21. Free entry.
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