Aotearoa's Treasures Set to Delight China

2 April 2013

Audiences in China will catch a glimpse of the gleaming connection between Māori and Chinese cultures when a showcase of traditional and contemporary pounamu culture opens next month.

The first major cultural exchange between Te Papa and the Wellington Region, and Zhejiang Province, China, will take place with the opening on Monday 1 April of Kura Pounamu: Treasured Jade Art of Aotearoa New Zealand at Liangzhu Museum, Hangzhou.

Kura Pounamu: Treasured Jade Art of Aotearoa New Zealand features more than 200 pieces of carefully selected pounamu with explanations about their origins and stories of the special relationship New Zealanders have with greenstone.

Wellington Mayor, Celia Wade Brown, says the exhibition will add another dimension to the political, economic and people-to-people links of the two regions. It’s a direct result of the Mayoral delegations to China, including meetings with the National Museum of China and the Governor of Zhejiang Province."This is a terrific outcome for closer relations between New Zealand and China," says the Mayor. "Wellington’s international relations offer us a huge economic advantage. Business relationships with China must be underpinned with cultural understandings and jade is a beautiful connection."

Last year the biggest Chinese delegation ever to visit Wellington signed a "strategic economic partnership" agreement with the region’s mayors. The agreement will increase opportunities for trade, study and mutual understanding of our cities, and increase exchanges between the regions.

"We’re thrilled to have our Te Papa exhibition open at the Liangzhu Museum, Hangzhou," says Te Papa Chief Executive Michael Houlihan.

"Hangzhou is one of China's preeminent cultural centres - famous for art academies, museums, classical gardens, development of silk culture, opera and music. The Liangzhu Museum is also the archaeological and research base of one of China's oldest jade/pounamu cultures, which is over 5,000 years old."

Some of the pieces are very rare, including the ancient toki (adzes) that were used by early Polynesians to carve out their tools. There are also examples of how pounamu pendants are worn by New Zealand international sports teams, such as in the 2012 London Olympics.

"Showcasing this exhibition is a significant start for Wellington’s partnership with Zhejiang. Pounamu is such an important stone for both cultures. We revere it as a useful tool and adornment, and it is also a sacred relic with strong family and tribal heirloom connections."

Two Te Papa representatives from Ngāi Tahu, Māori elder Professor Piri Sciascia and cultural advisor Lisa Tumahai, will lead the opening of the exhibition with a karakia.

Four representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Zhejiang Provincial Government will visit Wellington in April. The group, lead by Mr Lu Guohao (Deputy Director-General, Department of Foreign Affairs) will meet with both the Wellington City Council and Te Papa to enhance relations and look into opportunities of exchanges and cooperation in the education field between Zhejiang and the Wellington Region.