E kā reo, e kā mana, e kā karakataka maha o kā pitopito katoa o te ao, tēnā koutou. Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha, Rapuwai, koutou mā e mau mai ana i te mana o te whenua nei, tēnā koutou. Tēnā hoki koutou kua whetūrangitia, kā tūpuna kua wehe atu ki tua o te ārai, nō koutou ngā kōrero e whakahōnoretia nei. Haere mai koutou kia mihia, kia takihia. Haere mai, hoki atu. Haere, haere, haere atu rā. Ko rātou te huka mate ki a rātou, ko tātou te huka ora ki a tātou. Tēnā koutou.

[Greetings to you who hail from all corners of the world. Greetings to Kāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe, Waitaha, Rapuwai, the people who hold the mana (prestige) of this area of land. I greet those who have passed on, the ancestors from whom sprang the stories we celebrate here. Come to be greeted and wept for. Welcome and farewell. May the dead cleave to the dead as we the living cleave to the living. Greetings to you all.

E kore au e ngaro
Te kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea

I will never be lost
The seed sown from Rangiātea
(I will never be lost as I have within me the knowledge and genealogy of my ancestors)

The title for this exhibition Mai i Rangiātea: the Portrayal of Māori Myth and Legend in Print is taken from the above whakatauki (proverbial saying). Originally associated with tribes from the Aotea canoe, this proverb is widely used to say “I will never falter because I am descended from illustrious ancestors”. In the context of this exhibition, the whakataukī is used to refer to the stories – the myths and legends of ngā iwi Māori (all the tribes of Māoridom) – portrayed here. Some of these are seeds sown from the ancestral homeland represented by the name Rangiātea, while others are more recent tales from the shores of Aotearoa me Te Waipounamu (the North and South Islands of New Zealand). Either way, they will never be lost as long as they continue to be told.

As you contemplate this material about Māori myth and legend it is important to remember that the Māori culture is deeply rooted in oral tradition. Written Māori is an invention of the early missionaries, who, in the early nineteenth century, set about developing orthographic conventions for te reo Māori so they could record the Christian traditions in Māori as a written text. Before that time myth, legend and tradition was passed inter-generationally by word of mouth: through formal wānanga (schools of learning); through song; and through story telling in the firelight of the wharepuni (communal house). They were also recorded representationally in whare tupuna (ancestral houses) within whakairo (carving) and the coded patterns of kōwhaiwhai (painted rafters) and tukutuku (woven panels).

The more than 6o items in the exhibition range from the early (mid nineteenth century) collecting of Polack, Grey and Shortland to the contemporary. The exhibition themes include early collecting, representations in children’s literature, the revivalist phase (mid to late twentieth century), southern traditions and academic re-interpretations. Due to the richness and depth of the Heritage Collections not everything could be shown, but we hope we have produced an exhibition that adequately reflects that richness and depth that owes a lot to the foresight of our great benefactor, Robert McNab..

Nō reira rā, naumai, haere mai, tauiti mai ki te whakakiteka nei. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou.

[Therefore, welcome to this exhibition. Greetings to you, to us all].

Lorraine Johnston, Lead Curator (cases 7-21) | Anthony Tedeschi, Supporting Curator (cases 1-6)