“My vision is Te Papa realising the strengths that come from embracing two different ways of seeing the world,” says Seddon Bennington, the chief executive of the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa.
“There is a western way of seeing the world and a Matauranga Māori way. The rest of the world cannot tap into Māori wisdom. New Zealand has a very unique opportunity. It is interesting Māori have retained these points of view. They have a different world view,” says Dr Bennington.
“Te Papa is not neutral ground – it is a forum for the nation,” he says. He wants to understand New Zealand’s “bicultural social contract to give the greatest meaning to both parties”.
Te Papa expects to lead in education about the Treaty of Waitangi with content about Treaty settlements. Its approach includes
These can give an understanding of bases for claims, and the due process
by which negotiation and reconciliation occur. “People want to
see that legitimate claims are respected and that there is a process
for reconciliation of the interests. It is more than Te Papa saying
there are different points of view. Te Papa’s job is about awareness
and understanding, and reinforcing a commitment to the Treaty,” he
Te Papa can strengthen the way Pacific peoples in New Zealand can feel about their connection to the culture of their Islands, and can communicate the Pacific’s richness to its audiences.
Te Papa’s mission talks of its role in natural and cultural heritage. “Now
we need to get our hands and minds around the idea of the role we should
play in defining our national identity. We should recognise the bicultural
in New Zealand and how the multicultural brings diversity of point of
view,” says Dr Bennington.
Te Papa’s approach is to include the diversity of New Zealand cultural perspectives and celebrate them as strength.
We have only just started the journey to understand what the values
underlying biculturalism means, says Dr Bennington. “There is
great opportunity for New Zealanders in the values that Māori
bring to this partnership.”
Te Papa’s mission, developed in 1992, states that the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is a forum for the nation to present, explore and preserve the heritage of its cultures and knowledge of the natural environment in order to better understand and treasure the past, enrich the present and meet the challenges of the future.
The Museum Concept
Te Papa’s founding concept was developed through an extensive national consultative process and adopted by Government in 1990, and endorsed by the Board when it was appointed in 1992. It introduced the concepts of unified collections, the narratives of culture and place, the idea of forum, the bicultural partnership between Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti, and the multidisciplinary approach to delivering a national museum for diverse audiences. It also agreed that matters of concern to Te Papa are expressed within the conceptual framework of:
When Michael Tuffery, a Pacific New Zealand artist, created Pisupo Lua Afe (Corned Beef, 2000) in 1994, he provided a reminder that New Zealand grocery exporters sent mixed blessings with fatty foods for Islanders. His image is a draw card for young visitors in Te Papa’s Pacific display – and a stimulant to query what happens when cultures cross.