Kupe sites exhibition at Te Puia voyages into iwi ancestor legends of great Polynesian navigator

June 03, 2009
Kupe sites exhibition at Te Puia voyages into iwi ancestor legends of great Polynesian navigator

Kupe Sites, an exhibition developed and toured by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) opens in Te Puias Nga Waru Pu Manawa Gallery on Thursday 9 April.

It is the first time that this historically and culturally significant exhibition has been shown outside of the traditional museum setting, which recognises the role of Te Puia in preserving and showcasing the nations cultural heritage.

Kupe Sites celebrates a great Polynesian voyagers connections with New Zealand. Kupe is regarded by many iwi (tribes) as one of the ancestors who discovered New Zealand.

Kupe Sites explores the stories of Kupes encounter with New Zealand through names of various landmarks and places including the name Aotearoa.

Some iwi tell the story of Kupe setting out from his homeland Hawaiki in pursuit of Te Wheke-a-Muturangi, a giant octopus. Others recount how Kupe, in love with his nephews wife, Kuramarotini, took her husband, his cousin, Hoturapa fishing, left him out at sea to drown, then fled from the familys vengeance in her great canoe Matahourua and discovered New Zealand.

Whether he was the pursuer or the pursued, Kupe and his stories are of immense importance to the many iwi who trace their whakapapa (genealogy) back through him. While the stories vary, they all celebrate a remarkable voyager who settled a new land and charted a route through the Pacific for later navigators to follow.

Kupe Sites presents these stories through photographs of places and video recordings of kuia and kaumatua from four areas that have strong traditions of links to Kupe Northland, Wairarapa, the Wellington region, and the top of the South Island.

Kupe Sites offers visitors a unique encounter with New Zealands past and reveals the significance of landscape and memory in portraying a key figure in the countrys history.

Kupe is a legend of contention. Some iwi are precise about the times and places Kupe lived or left from. The legends of the Whanganui and Taranki regions place Kupe with the Aotea canoe. In other traditionit is suggested Kupe came to New Zealand on other canoes. Around the year 1400 is the belief.

In one version of Kupe beliefs he was a great chief of Hawaiki who stepped ashore in New Zealand in 925AD.

Wikipedia says Cape Reinga (Te Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairua in Maori) at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand has greatmeaning for Maori.

The name of the cape comes from the Maori word 'Reinga', meaning the 'Underworld'. Another Maori name is 'Te Rerenga Wairua', meaning the leaping-off place of spirits.

Both refer to the Maori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld.

According to mythology, the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga on their journey to the afterlife in the spiritual homeland of Hawaiki, using the Te Ara Wairua, the 'Spirits' pathway'.

Editor Note: Traditions about Kupe appear among the peoples of the Northland, Ngati Kahungunu, Tainui, Whanganui-Taranaki, Rangitane, and the South Island.

Kupe Legend site Hokianga Harbour Courtesy Destination Northland NZ
Kupe Legend site Hokianga Harbour Courtesy Destination Northland NZ