9 May 2019

Te Papa exhibition showcases unique NZ environment

From Checkpoint, 5:54 pm on 9 May 2019

Te Papa's newest $12 million exhibition, Te Taiao, has opened its doors for a sneak preview ahead of Saturday's launch. 
Te Taiao brings together māturanga Māori and science in a four-part exploration of New Zealand's environment.

A group of children from Mount Cook school were lucky enough to get a first glimpse and play with the interactive displays. 

A number of them were clamouring to play with the "mauri-activator", where people touch a carved wooden plinth, which brings a giant projection of a landscape to life. 

It's just one of the interactive displays in the Te Ika Whenua Unique New Zealand part of the exhibition, which showcases the country's diverse wildlife, both extinct and present. 

It was a huge effort to bring the display together, lead curator Leon Perrie said, including curating a wall featuring 690 species. 

"It might look like a little bit of wallpaper on the back but to get everything in its right place was a big effort by many people in Te Papa." 

"What the wall is representing - everything behind us is only found in Aotearoa so that is one of the key messages here in the Unique New Zealand part of the Te Taiao Nature zone."

In the Rūaumoko Active Land exhibition, another giant projection plays an animation of how Lake Taupō was formed 25,500 thousand years ago. 

"People have been pretty drawn in by it, I think, we've had people looked at it and go, 'How'd you get - what's that footage from, how'd you get that footage', and like, it's not footage, it's beautiful work done by some of our external collaborators," experience developer Ralph Upton said. 

At the centre is Te Kōhanga Nest, woven from recycled materials which houses the Moa's egg, discovered at the Wairau Bar in 1939. 

The egg is fractured but almost full intact, and dates back to 1280 - 1300 AD. It is surrounded by replicas of birds who are extinct, endangered or flourishing, and their bird calls. 

It was the centre piece of the exhibition, and a moment of reflection, content creator Frith Williams said. 

"That said, there are other really key moments like the mauri-activator that introduces you to the concept of mauri and working together to support the life force of all living things, so I would say the mauri activator and this moment here, where we're asked to think about the impact that we've had, are really key."

Te Papa staff worked with the hapu Makaawhio on the West Coast, to include the Māori legend Māui in the exhibition, who is said to have first landed in their rohe (area). 

He makes an appearance throughout the exhibition, popping up throughout interactive displays, which Ms Williams said was to reflect his cheeky, playful nature. 

The final installation, Ngā Kaitiaki Guardians, examines the environmental challenges ahead of us, and what a carbon dioxide-free future might look like.

The whole exhibition is fully bilingual and is the first permanent exhibition in Te Papa to be in both te reo Māori and English - and it has more IT and interactive parts than in the entire museum. 

Some of the old favourite are also back, like the earthquake house and colossal squid, which were both hits with kids from Mount Cook School. 

Those eager to see it for themselves will be able to do so when Te Taiao opens at Te Papa on Saturday.