Tuia – Encounters 250

Page 3 – HERE: Kupe to Cook exhibition

Creative responses to the Tuia Encounters 250 kaupapa have come from all sorts of places and spaces. Protest, tautoko, questioning, are all occurring around the motu as the replica Endeavour, waka and vaka travel the country during 2019.

The HERE: Kupe to Cook exhibition at Pātaka Art Gallery and Museum in Porirua, Wellington from 11 August to 23 November 2019 marks 250 years since James Cook's arrival in Aotearoa with an exploration of the voyagers who were first to come here — Polynesian and European navigators.

The exhibition, curated by Reuben Friend and Mark Hutchins-Pond, offers its own take on Tuia through a bilingual and multicultural exhibition of multimedia art, sculpture, photography, painting, waka building and film making. Every piece is discussed in te reo Māori, and also in English, to ensure those who can and wish to do so, can read from a Te Ao Māori (Māori world) perspective. This thoughtful approach is echoed through the art gallery where the works of art are those of Pacific and Māori artists as well as those of European and Asian descent.

The artworks and their interpretation tell the story, from various perspectives, of the migrations and settlement of Aotearoa New Zealand over many hundreds of years.

The vibrant primary colours of the walls remove that feeling of clinical white austerity we sometimes experience in the formal gallery space and the explosion of powerful words draws you into the stories of living in Te Moananui-a-Kiwa, the Pacific, Oceania, our home.

It’s very hard to pick out which artworks to talk about, so I hope you can go and see for yourself, but I’ve chosen to start with Kupe’s anchor stone, which is always on display at Pātaka as it was deposited in Porirua Harbour.

Kupe’s stone


Kupe's anchor stone.

It is often referred to as Maungaroa, a reference to the source of the stone in Rarotonga. It is thought to have been brought by waka-hourua (double hulled ship) by Kupe and was renamed Te Huka-a-Tai. To learn more about Kupe’s amazing adventures around Te Ūpoko o te Ika (Wellington), check out Te Haerenga o Kupe.

The next piece in the gallery I was drawn to was Tawhai Rickard’s sculpture of HMB Endeavour called Cook Discovers Aotearoa 1769.

This incredible piece portrays Cook as a military officer under orders from the British Crown, rather than mythologising him as a founding father. The style of painting in the sculpture is from the 18th century, inspired by a meeting house east of Ruatōria, Te Whānau a Hinetāpora. It considers the collision of cultures which occurred when the Endeavour arrived in 1769 and nine Māori of Ngāti Oneone and Rongowhakaata were killed by Cook’s men.

I particularly like the detail of Kupe kneeling before the Queen wearing the naval hat Cook was known for, as Wikitoria (Queen Victoria) tells him to ‘Arise’ as she would if he was being knighted. We don’t have a picture of this, so you’ll need to go to the gallery if you can and check it out. This collapse of time, between Kupe’s original landfall in Aotearoa and Cook’s arrival, is a neat way of thinking about the ‘what ifs’ of this history — what if Kupe had sailed north and arrived in Europe? What if Cook never came here? How do we have better and deeper conversations about our sometimes dark and difficult past? How and why does our history matter?

If you keep walking through the various rooms you will come to the work called Hātia by the 7558 Collective, Jamie Berry, Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou, Ngā Puhi; Pikihuia Haenga, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Porou;
Leala Faleseuga, Samoan/Salelologa, Dutch; Te Kahureremoa Taumata, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tuwharetoa. These amazing wāhine use multimedia technologies to explore whakapapa, and this work, with its own anchor stone, projects images across the strings tied to the stone and the wall, depicting stories through the images they create. And it’s just beautiful. Go check it out if you can.

Lala Roll’s film Tupaia’s Endeavour (with Michel Tuffery) is an amazing eye-opener, following a descendant of Tupaia back to his homeland to learn more about him. By travelling Aotearoa, the film also reveals how local people understood Tupaia’s place on the Endeavour.

Kupe’s stone


Lala Rolls' film Tuapaia’s Endeavour

And finally, Jo Torr’s Transit of Venus III (2005), a formal grand lady’s European dress of the 1800s made of siapo/tapa (barkcloth) and shells confronted me with thoughts about how culturally displaced Europeans were in Aotearoa and how little they adapted to local customs, assuming their ways of dressing, speaking, acting and behaving were somehow better than local ways, developed over millennia, attuned to the environment and their place in it.

Kupe’s stone


Jo Torr's Transit of Venus III.

I went to a talk recently by Dr Arini Loader (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toarangatira), and among many wise and wonderful things she said, was ‘Ka Haere Whakamua, Titiro Whakamuri’: ‘we walk into the future facing the past’. I was particularly pleased about this because the French memorial at Pukeahu National War Memorial, where I work, says the same thing. She went on to say that ‘History is all about the future’. And when I see these artworks at Pātaka Art Gallery, it seems to me that the future, just like the past, is creative, indigenous, exciting, and Pacific-tastic.

Dr Emma Jean Kelly, Educator

Further information

All images taken by Mark Tantrum, Pataka Art + Museum.

Listen to Reuben Friend, director of the Pataka Art + Museum, and two of the artists involved, Greg Samu and Michel Tuffery, talk about the exhibition (RNZ)

Listen to filmmaker Lala Rolls and artist Michael Tuffery discussing their film Tuapaia’s Endeavour (RNZ)

How to cite this page

'HERE: Kupe to Cook exhibition', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 17-Jul-2023

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