Launch of name and identity of Archive Exhibition Project
National Library, Wellington
10.00am Wednesday 10 August 2016
Tēnā koutou katoa
I would like to acknowledge and welcome all guests here today, to celebrate this important milestone in our journey to launch an exciting new exhibition of three of our treasured taonga that shape us a nation.
I wish to welcome our manawhenua leaders Neville Baker and Taku Parai.
Neville and Taku, also other manawhenua representatives here today, have stood with us throughout this exhibition journey, guiding and supporting us on tikanga and protocols.
For this we thank you sincerely.
We are honoured to have so many representatives from the iwi leaders group I have been working with over the past almost two years, and I acknowledge and welcome Tā Tumu te Heuheu – Ariki of Ngati Tūwharetoa, Rahui Papa, chair of Waikato-Tainui, Selwyn Parata, chair of Ngāti Porou and Tā Mark Solomon’s representative from Ngai Tahu.
We also welcome Tai Tokerau chairs Carol Dodd of Ngapuhi and Haami Piripi of Te Rarawa and kaumatua and kuia who have travelled far to be with us today.
During the project I have learned that Ngāpuhi regard themselves as kaitiaki – guardians – of the Treaty of Waitangi, therefore this exhibition and its success is sacred to them.
Last, but not least, I wish to acknowledge the members of the exhibition’s Māori and Women’s Suffrage Petition advisory groups, made up of our country’s leading experts in their fields.
I am particularly pleased we are celebrating this milestone together, because the new exhibition is based on partnership and collaboration at every level.
Personally, I have enjoyed and felt privileged to work with iwi leaders, together providing direction and leadership for the exhibition.
We have been supported by advisory group members, who have worked together with the project team to help ensure all New Zealanders can see their perspective represented.
Specialist staff from Archives New Zealand and National Library are working together with the design team and construction company to produce an exciting exhibition experience, to safeguard the taonga and to engage young people, sparking their interest in what the taonga signify for their lives today.
The collaboration between people from different backgrounds, with diverse expertise, world views, and perspectives, is the source of the exhibition’s strength and integrity.
Because the story of the origins of our nation is not a single story from a single viewpoint: it is a continuing story, one we are all part of today.
And it is thanks to the efforts and contributions of all involved that we are set to launch a new exhibition in early 2017 to preserve these precious taonga for many generations, provide greater access so many more of us today will have the opportunity to see and better understand them, and teach our young people about the history and ongoing significance of the documents to our national story.
This is an important exhibition for all people in Aotearoa New Zealand, and visitors to New Zealand, and I feel proud and privileged to be part of it.
The exhibition houses three documents that shape us as a nation – the 1835 Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand – He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni, the 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi – Treaty of Waitangi, and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition.
Tomorrow is the 123rd anniversary of the Suffrage petition being presented to Parliament, in 1893 – distant in time, but just a few metres away from where we are now.
Sir John Hall, who was presenting the petition, brought it into the House and it was unrolled down the central aisle of the debating chamber ‘until it hit the end wall with a thud’.
These taonga brought about significant change and this exhibition will provide an opportunity for more New Zealanders to connect with the taonga and their stories.
The Crown’s primary responsibility as holder of these taonga is first and foremost preservation. Each presents unique preservation challenges: He Whakaputanga is written on three sides of two pieces of paper, Te Tiriti o Waitangi is made up of nine different documents – two on parchment, processed animal skin, and seven on paper.
The Women’s Suffrage Petition is more than 500 sheets of paper, all glued together to form one continuous 274 metre-long roll.
The Suffrage petition was signed by almost 32,000 women.
He Whakaputanga was signed by 52 chiefs and Te Tiriti was signed by around 530 to 540 Māori, including at least 13 women.
This is part of the richness of the story of each of the taonga.
For me, seeing them brought home the significance of each person’s signature or mark, the journey that each taonga was taken on, and led me to marvel that despite their fragility, the documents and the signatures they hold have survived this journey, both around the country and down the years.
The opportunity to see the taonga is powerful – it brings all of us closer to the people who signed them.
I acknowledge the deep and significant connection for iwi in particular.
All three taonga are currently at Archives New Zealand, and in early 2017 they will continue their journey – transported to be exhibited here, in this magnificent National Library building space.
Construction work has begun to create the exhibition, which will comprise a document room made of native timber, inspired by a waka huia (treasure box) to hold our most precious objects.
The new exhibition is hosted by the National Library to allow better access, while the taonga remain under the care of the Chief Archivist and her team, whose aim is to preserve these documents for more than 500 years.
It is important to preserve these taonga, but this is not about preserving artefacts of the past for posterity.
These documents are the foundation for how society operates in New Zealand today, from the principles of partnership in Te Tiriti to gender equality.
These are live issues today, and this, along with the significance of the taonga, is why this exhibition is so important, and so exciting.
The exhibition is a tool for all us to help give all of our tamariki the opportunity to understand the intent of the people who signed the documents that founded our nation, and to form for themselves a picture of the past, to help guide their future.
This is why the vision for the exhibition is He Whakapapa Kōrero, he Whenua Kura – Talking about our past to create a better future.
The documents themselves are symbols of the power and importance of identities, of names, and a lot of care has been taken in selecting an appropriate name and identity of this new exhibition.
It has been a collaborative effort between the Taranaki Whānui naming committee, Department of Internal Affairs staff, and external advisors to the project – including the Māori and women’s advisory groups.
On behalf of this group, it gives me great pleasure to announce the name of the new permanent exhibition that will house our precious constitutional documents for the next generation.
It is He Tohu – which is a wonderful Maori word with many meanings.
But for this exhibition, it simply means “the signs”.
In a few minutes, iwi leader Haami Piripi is going to tell you about the symbolism of He Tohu to Māori.
Tohu means “signature, sign, mark, symbols, emblem, distinguishing feature, achievement”.
The name was chosen because it refers directly to the most obvious and powerful element of the exhibition’s three documents: the unique signatures of those who supported them.
It highlights and celebrates the tohu – the signs – of those gone before us.
They left their marks and signatures on these documents.
Today, these tohu symbolise their courage, conviction, hopes and aspirations for a better future for Aotearoa New Zealand.
By signing these documents, our forebears added their mana, their very human essence.
I would now like to ask two students, young New Zealanders for whom this exhibition is particularly intended, to do the honours and unveil the visual identity and bring life to our new exhibition.
The two students are Te Haupuru Makoare, a year 12 student at Hato Paora College in Feilding, and Ella Thorpe, a year 11 student at Wellington.
I spoke before about the exhibition being founded on collaboration and Ella has been part of this, working with the exhibition’s archivists and researchers, researching Suffrage Petition signatories for the exhibition’s interactive feature.
Te Haupuru, I have learnt has connections with this project as a descendant from signatories of the Declaration and Te Tiriti.
He Tohu – A declaration. A treaty. A petition.
The design identity captures elements shared by the three documents – the unique signatures and marks applied by the hand of each signatory or witness.
It features three colours, which relate to each document:
• Pacific blue for He Whakaputanga, representing the colour of the Pacific Ocean, especially in the north of Aotearoa New Zealand, where He Whakaputanga was signed.
• Ochre for the Treaty of Waitangi, which is associated with whenua, the land, and associated with chiefly status.
• Purple for the Women’s Suffrage Petition, as purple was an official colour of the suffrage movement.
After the formalities I invite you to read more about the exhibition name and identity in the hand-out provided.
It is our wish that all young New Zealanders will be able to visit what we hope is a moving and significant exhibition, at least once in their lifetime.
For those who cannot visit in person, or who want to know more about our founding documents, the exhibition’s online site will provide a wealth of learning material about our founding documents.
It will be a place that all New Zealanders – young and old – will want to visit, to connect and learn more about our unique heritage.