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‘Embrace the complexity’: Local histories showcased in relaunched exhibition

9 June 2023

Shaping Hamilton - Huringa Kirikiriroa

A fresh perspective is bringing local history alive at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, with the relaunch of ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’.

The refreshed long-term exhibition explores the history of the area through Maaori taonga, historical artefacts and objects, photographs, and contemporary art. Delving into multi-layered stories, ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ aligns with the nationwide overhaul of the history curriculum taught in Aotearoa New Zealand schools.

The thought-provoking exhibition showcases key events that have shaped Hamilton Kirikiriroa from the arrival of Waikato Tainui to the present day. Representatives from local hapuu, Ngaati Wairere, have collaborated with Museum staff to include taonga which have significance to tangata whenua in addition to objects from Hamilton’s recent history.

“Our exhibition ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ delves into the region’s multi-layered past. As an institution, and as individuals, we are striving to embrace the complexity of the stories which have shaped Aotearoa New Zealand. Being able to work closely with members of Ngaati Wairere has been an enriching experience for us all,” said Liz Cotton, Director Museum and Arts.

“History is a continuous process, and this is why the Museum’s collection continues to grow. For example, our recent acquisition of the decommissioned Von Tempsky Street sign demonstrates changing attitudes towards the city’s colonial past. ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ presents our visitors with the opportunity to learn and engage with the past as we look to the future.”

Ngaati Wairere historian Wiremu Puke described the opening of the relaunched exhibition as “the start of a journey”.

“The taonga on display have been brought together to showcase the once thriving tradition of Ngaati Wairere carving. This was observed by Dr Edward Shortland in 1842 when he visited Kirikiriroa Paa and noted carved palisades that protected the cultivations of the hapuu on both sides of the river,” said Puke, who has iwi affiliations to Ngaati Wairere, Ngaati Porou, and Ngaapuhi.

“The carvings in ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ are considerably older and date back to the time when stone tools were used. We have revived these sacred patterns on the frontage of the main paataka inside the Te Parapara Garden at Hamilton Gardens.”

“We hope in time that a larger exhibition will be planned for the city and the nation where Ngaati Wairere can be seen as a taonga for the world to see and no longer hidden away.”

New features on display in ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ include an exceptional 2.3 metre paepae (carved wooden beam) which has never been exhibited before and demonstrates the significance of whakairo (carving) to this region.

The paepae was retrieved in 1983 during earthworks in a wetland area once known as Te Raratuna O Tutumua, located north of Pukete Paa (Braithwaite Park). It is made from tootara wood and was likely carved in the 1700s. When Waikato Museum received this taonga into the collection it was broken into many fragile pieces and required extensive conservation work.

Other items in the exhibition range from a black silk mourning dress worn by a Paakehaa settler during the 1860’s, to a vibrant digital artwork titled “Wai” by installation artist Gina Ferguson and electro-acoustic artist Dale Cotton.

The pronunciation and meaning of Maaori place names in the area are brought to life with a new interactive. Presented as a large map of Hamilton Kirikiriroa, at the push of a button visitors can hear an audio recording of locations such as Horotiu or Waitawhiriwhiri Gully. The pronunciation guide includes the translation or story behind the name, providing informative details about the sites as well as how to say the name correctly.

The updates to ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ coincide with the arrival of the new history curriculum. The result of years of consultation by the Ministry of Education, ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories/Te Takanga o Te Wā’ is now being implemented in all schools and kura. Waikato Museum provides educational programmes and professional development to enhance the teaching and delivery of this new framework.

Waikato Museum’s exhibition ‘Shaping Hamilton Huringa Kirikiriroa’ is open every day from 10am to 5pm and entry is free.

Image credit: Visitors taking in the painting The Great South Road (2017) by Bob Kerr.


Please note:

For te reo Maaori, Waikato Museum uses double vowels (uu) in place of vowels with a macron (ū) to represent a long vowel sound. This spelling approach is the preference of tangata whenua in Hamilton Kirikiriroa and Waikato iwi for te reo Maaori words. Artists’ titles are shown in their original form.