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Back to:  Home > Arts/Culture



Maori Culture Living Exhibit to Visit Smithsonian

July 5, 2017 -

Bringing the richness of New Zealand’s culture stateside, the Tuku Iho | Living Legacy installation will open at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. from July 22-30.

It will feature in-situ Māori art demonstrations, live performances, and a showcase of Māori artefacts handcrafted by students and teachers of the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI).

As part of the activities, a partly constructed six meter waka (canoe) will be carved and completed onsite by NZMACI as an important symbol of connection across the Pacific. Once completed, the waka will be gifted to the Smithsonian Institution by New Zealand ambassador Tim Groser as part of the closing ceremony becoming a permanent piece of the Smithsonian’s collection.

Against the backdrop of taonga, sacred objects and treasures that tell the history of the respective tribes who use them, a group of artists will perform traditional dances and songs while Māori tattooists showcase the craft of tā moko and speakers lead artistic interactions on the influence of Māori culture and arts on life in the present day. In its fusion of the traditional and the contemporary, Tuku Iho | Living Legacy is a remarkable representation of the diversity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s culture to audiences in the United States.

Tuku Iho | Living Legacy project director Karl Johnstone describes the installation as “having been developed as a shared exchange with the global community. Our culture and our various artistic practices are a platform for building and strengthening relationships.”

Johnstone also describes the aim of the program to “not only to showcase New Zealand, but to also learn as much as we can about other cultures and to create dialogue about identity and its importance to our individual and collective well-being.”

With the support of the New Zealand Government through Manatu Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s Cultural Diplomacy International Programme, Tuku Iho | Living Legacy will tour Washington D.C before travelling to Venice Beach, Los Angeles in October 2017, and is expected to travel to Japan in 2019 as part of the lead up to the Rugby World Cup.


Tuku Iho provides an opportunity for artists and performers to interact with US society, schools, universities, arts communities and exhibition visitors, providing insights about Māori culture and connecting the art to the people and place it comes from. The exhibition’s guiding principle is to engage and connect with other indigenous cultures and to create dialogue about identity and its importance to our individual and collective wellbeing. Tuku Iho aims to inspire across a range of other platforms including the arts, policy and economic interest, and community. The exhibition also contributes to NZMACI’s core mandate to protect, promote and perpetuate Māori arts, crafts and culture.


- The Tuku Iho | Living Legacy installation will be featured at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History from July 22 – July 30, 2017. The Smithsonian Institution is one of the world’s largest museum, education and research complexes, and is the most visited natural history museum in the world with over 8 million visitors a year.

- Q?rius (pronounced “curious”), the interactive learning space where the installation is showcased, will allow visitors to experience the works in an intimate and hands-on experience. Q?rius sees roughly 2,000 visitors a day.

- In addition to a collection of more than 70 Māori artefacts and works of art, Tuku Iho features kapa haka performances, live contemporary Māori music, live wood carving, live tā moko (tattooing) and other presentations highlighting New Zealand’s Māori culture.

- A six meter waka (canoe) will be completed onsite as part of the installation, then gifted to the Smithsonian Institution.

- Kapa haka - or traditional Māori performing arts will take place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C to promote the instillation. – Kapa haka is a powerful and highly visual part of the New Zealand cultural experience.

- The United States Tuku Iho tour follows hugely successful exhibitions in China, Malaysia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Future visits stateside include Los Angeles, California in October 2017.


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