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Different ways of seeing

Treaty settlement education
Pacific vision: 'inner core that gives strength'
Bicultural-multicultural inclusiveness
Te Papa’s mission

“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”.

Treaty settlement education

Te Papa expects to lead in education about the Treaty of Waitangi with content about Treaty settlements. Its approach includes

  • display of two documents with texts of the Treaty
  • capture of different perspectives from a cross section of Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti
  • tracing the source of particular claims.

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 says.
Te Papa has to use judgement in how far to go in such issues, given there is community division on aspects of the Treaty claims settlement process. Opinion is divided on the pace of and timetabling of the settlement process. The national museum has to manage its handling of the view of those who want reinterpretation of the Treaty. It has to work in an environment where people such as National Opposition leader Bill English wants the so-called article four of the Treaty removed from Government documents.
Dr Bennington says “Te Papa is a forum for management of the discussion and dialogue – in a way that respects points of view. The side we should take is communication, debate and understanding”.
Te Papa should find the high ground on further dissemination of contentious information such as Treaty article four. “It should not be intimidated by individual points of view. But we also need to maintain our political good grace by good diplomacy. This does not mean we change our tune, but that we should stand our high ground.”

Pacific vision: 'inner core that gives strength'

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.
He wants sincerity in developing the relationship and to find ways to give expression.
If Te Papa, for example, were to want to mount an exhibition with the Tongan community in New Zealand, Dr Bennington would like to be at the table with that community in a very open way. He would encourage the Tongans to reflect their culture. He would assume change and continuity – as an existing Te Papa exhibit is described – in the Pacific response.
The museum has an interesting role in depicting a past and relating it to the fact that cultures are always in evolution. The recall would be about what came before – the forces that influenced change. There are changes at work for the Tongans who came to New Zealand.
Think about what is important to maintain a thread of continuity – “the inner core that gives strength,” he says.

Bicultural-multicultural inclusiveness

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.”
How might Te Papa proceed in the development of biculturalism and multiculturalism, and their relationships?
“ It is a matter of investment in the discussion. In order to reach a full and inclusive multicultural programme for Te Papa we need to fully engage our Tangata Whenua.”
Dr Bennington hopes for Tangata Whenua “recognition of the importance of inclusion in this country. Te Papa is well set up for that discussion. It happens here around everything we do. It is a journey we are on together.”

Te Papa’s mission

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:

  • Papatu nuku – the earth on which we all live
  • Tangata Whenua – those who belong to the land by right of first discovery (that is, Māori)
  • Tangata Tiriti – those who belong to the land by right of the Treaty (that is, everyone else).




Photo of Maori concert party at the Te Papa marae.

Photo shows Te Papa staff showing exhibit.

Photo shows pacific island group of dancers.

Photo shows a full sized sculpture of a cattle beast made from corned beef cans.

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.