I wrote yesterday how last week’s day trip to Wellington gave me the opportunity to check out The Beehive, #3 on VirtualTourist.com’s list of World’s Ugliest Buildings.

te papa But the real reason for I was in Wellington was to check out the Kuru Pounamu: The Treasured Stone exhibition over at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, located on Wellington’s shoreline. This exhibition is a collection of more than 200 traditional and contemporary pounamu taonga (greenstone treasures) from not only from Te Papa‘s own collection but also from private collections from around the country.

te papa 1Pounama taonga are an integral part of Maori culture and history. All you have to do is read the whakapapa (geneology) that is offered for some of the objects on display to discover that these greenstone treasures are directly linked to individuals and incidents in New Zealand history.

No one knows  exactly when Maori discovered pounamu, otherwise known as New Zealand nephrite or greenstone. But excavation at archaeological sites around New Zealand have established that it was widely extracted and used in the 1500s.

Tribes throughout New Zealand transformed it into taongo (treasures) ranging from weapons to jewellery. As a weapon, it was used as both a peacemaker and as an instrument of war.

It also has a profoundly spiritual force and is consider to reflect individual and collective mana.  

This Te Papa exhibition features a wide collection of these pounamu taonga, ranging from an impressive wall display of hei tiki (pendants in human form) to ear pendants, carving tools, and weapons.

Anyone interested in New Zealand’s Maori culture and history will enjoy this exhibition.

(Kuru Pounama: The Treasured Stone of New Zealand exhibition runs until February 2011. Free entry)

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Liz Lewis is a New Zealand based writer who favors wine tasting and food markets over bungy jumping and mountain climbing.