Tukutuku panels ready to go to the United Nations in New York

  • Te Ururoa Flavell
Maori Development

More than forty tukutuku panels will be shipped to New York this month as they start their journey to the United Nations Headquarters where they will be permanently installed.

At the exhibition closing of Kāhui Raranga – Aotearoa New Zealand’s heart at the United Nations, the Minister for Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell said the tukutuku panels were, “a powerful statement to the world about our country; who we are; and the land that shaped us.”

“They carry the stories of our unique cultural heritage and identity, and when they take pride of place at the UN, we can be proud that they so fittingly represent us - Aotearoa New Zealand - to the world.”

The woven panels were created by sixty weavers from around the country under the guidance of Christine Wirihana and were commissioned by the former Minister of Māori Affairs Hon Dr Pita Sharples following his visit to the UN in 2010.

“Pita conceived the idea for New Zealand to create tukutuku panels for the UN headquarters after leading the New Zealand delegation that signed the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People four years ago.

“He can be immensely proud that his vision has come to fruition,” says Mr Flavell.

The panels will be installed in the newly refurbished UN Building and will enhance New Zealand’s former gift of a rimu wall presented in 1952.

The woven panels depict a mix of traditional and contemporary designs that include: Poutama (Stairway to the Heavens); Pātikitiki (The Founder); Mūmū (Checkerboard);  Roimata Toroa (Albatross Tears); Pohutukawa; Matariki (Pleiades Star Cluster); Ngā Rau Ponga (Silver Fern); Kohia (NZ Passionfruit); Mahūtonga (Southern Cross); and Te Rā o Ngā Hōia (Anzac Poppy).

The tukutuku have been on display at Te Papa since July with thousands of local and international visitors viewing them before the closing of the exhibition which took place today.

Minister Flavell said it was fitting that the taonga were going to an organisation responsible for maintaining international peace and security; promoting human rights including indigenous rights; and fostering social and economic development. 

“While we are accustomed to tukutuku in our whare tūpuna (meeting houses) back home, these gifts will soon adorn a global meeting house.  Their visibility in an international forum; and our recent successful selection to the Security Council; puts us at the heart of the UN.”

Minister Flavell paid tribute to his predecessor and fellow Māori Party colleague Hon Dr Pita Sharples for his initiative and thanked the weavers, Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Te Papa Tongarewa for their collaborative effort in creating, assembling and exhibiting the panels.

A small group of the weavers will travel to New York early next year to oversee installation of the panels which will be unveiled to dignitaries including New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Jim McLay and former Prime Minister Helen Clark, now Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)