The award-winning exhibition Hākui: Women of Kāi Tahu at Otago Museum is yet another exhibition that I have had to get to know through catalogues and online write-ups due to its geographic distance (a whole island away!). Last week I attended the inaugural Museums Australasia conference (first time that Museums Aotearoa and Museums Australia had held a joint conference), followed by the Kāhui Kaitiaki hui (a smaller conference aimed at indigenous workers). As part of the conference there was an an awards show in which this exhibition won the Metropolitan Taonga Māori award. This exhibition, which highlights the significant matriarchs of the South Island tribe of Kāi Tahu garnered such high praise from everyone who visited it that it is unsurprising to also find that the catalogue is beautiful.
The catalogue itself uses a traditional woven cloak as a metaphor through the way in which it names the chapters as “whenu” or the woven threads that make up the “kaupapa” (foundation) of a cloak. Right from the introduction of the catalogue, the way in which clothing was used in the exhibition is mentioned from the consultation committee chair, Matapura Ellison: “In my childhood memories they were regal in the way they held themselves, and they dressed immaculately when the occasion demanded.” The catalogue itself also features some exquisite details of various cloaks.
This exhibition is one of those instances where I really, really wish that I had seen it and if there is any chance that it will tour, I will not miss it!
There are some really great write ups about the exhibition from the perspective of the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision who lent audio to the exhibition and from an Otago Museum Collection Officer here.
A note on my column title: Kōrero Kākahu translates very literally from Māori to English as “talk of clothing” but can also be read as the stories gleaned from clothing or the stories that clothing holds. Future columns, particularly those that cover Māori content, may delve into this meaning a little deeper.