6 Sep 2012

Pounamu exhibition taken to China

7:45 am on 6 September 2012

Te Papa Tongarewa and the National Museum of China are working together to put on a show to celebrate four decades of Sino-Aotearoa political relations.

Kura Pounamu: Treasured stone of Aotearoa New Zealand is part of an exhibition being sent to China in November to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

It showcases more than 200 pieces of carefully selected pounamu which explain their origins and stories of the special relationship New Zealanders have with greenstone.

Te Papa's curator Maori, Dougal Austin, says Kura Pounamu highlights the unique status of greenstone in New Zealand, and the cultural importance it has for Maori, particularly for Ngai Tahu.

He says the exhibition tells the story of pounamu being found only in Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island) even though it is widely used by people throughout Aotearoa.

Mr Austin says Kura Pounamu includes some films where Ngai Tahu kaitiaki (guardians) explain their own special connection with the taonga and what it means to them.

He says some of the pieces are very rare including the ancient toki (adzes) that were used by early Polynesians to carve out their tools.

Mr Austin says there are also examples of how pounamu pendants are worn by New Zealand international sports teams, such as in the 2012 London Olympics.

He says both Maori and Chinese culture regard jade as a valuable resource. Chinese people will be able to connect to one of the main creation stories of pounamu, which features the taniwha Poutini, through their legends of dragons.

The exhibition is part of the Brian Brake: Lens on China show which displays the photos he took in China in the 1950s.

The late Brian Brake (1927-1988) was one of New Zealand's best known photographers who was one of the few Westerners allowed in the communist state in the 1950s and 60s.

The show opens at the National Museum of China in Beijing on 1 November.