The unveiling of a bronze whatarangi (storehouse) heading for the United Nations was held today at Te Puia New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua.
It is regarded as a significant gift from Aotearoa to the United Nations (UN) made under the initiative "Māori Tū" led by the Iwi Chairs Forum to demonstrate Aotearoa's support for the UN's Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The whatarangi stands over 3.5m high and weighs nearly 4000kg (four tonnes), and symbolises safe-keeping, representing the storage and maintenance of tangible and intangible heritage.
A whatarangi is traditionally known to store the most precious taonga of the tribe. It has been installed at Te Puia temporarily while engineers undertake extensive tests.
Sir Tumu te Heuheu, Chairman of the Iwi Leaders Group says one key objective of gifting the taonga is the hope to deepen understanding and grow greater social and political consciousness around the significance of the Declaration to Māori and to New Zealand. “We hope that the whatarangi will help to nurture the blossoming of a set of values which will help to inform the development of a unique relationship between indigenous peoples and the United Nations into the future."
He says, "The unveiling of the whatarangi this week is another important step in the process, not just for technical reasons, but also to acknowledge those who have been involved with this kaupapa and to celebrate its completion."
Sir Tumu te Heuheu also says the late Mauriora Kingi, played a crucial role in the development of this initiative. "Mauriora was not only a graduate of NZMACI, he was a also firm advocate of the protection and perpetuation of Māori art, craft and culture – a mandate which the UN Declaration seeks to protect."
Sir Tumu te Heuheu says finer details around the gifting of the whatarangi are being finalised with the United Nations.