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Refreshed Tanoa bowl architecture revealed at Auckland Museum

A cultural blessing, including a Karakia and Kava ceremony, was held over the weekend for Auckland Museum’s refreshed South Atrium, Te Ao Mārama.

The refreshed South Atrium Te Ao Mārama. Photo: Supplied

The museum worked with iwi and Pacific communities in Auckland to create the new South Atrium, which reveals the most significant changes to the Museum in more than a decade.

“The full reveal of the Tanoa bowl architecture and the new mana whenua and Pasifika artworks and audio-visual experiences have converted the space into a rich architectural and cultural gallery in its own right,” says Dr David Gaimster, Chief Executive of Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The transformation continues the architectural vision which began 20 years ago to improve the visitor experience.

The refreshed South Atrium. Photo: Supplied

“The original 2006 vision for the Museum’s South Atrium by Noel Lane and colleagues’ has now been realised,” says Dr Gaimster. “The structure and meaning of Tanoa was entirely concealed behind later operational interventions. Now it is revealed in all its glory for visitors to share.”

The ‘Tanoa’ / Pasifika bowl, installed in 2006, represents the gathering of people together. The Tanoa is now fully realised as a circular bowl suspended over the new bicultural welcome space. The radial geometry places the visitor in the centre of the Museum, enabling them to orientate and connect outwards to Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the South Pacific beyond.

Photo: Supplied

The Tanoa, and the mauri stone buried beneath the Atrium, is activated with a light and sound artwork referencing navigational narratives that acknowledges Mana Whenua presence and their role as kaitiaki of the land, building, taonga and people with the Museum.

Under the Tanoa is a looping animated audio-visual experience that shares the arrival of the three Mana Whenua iwi that make up the Museum’s Taumata-ā-Iwi. This experience contains the stories of Ngāti Whātua Orākei, Ngāti Paoa and Waikato Tainui, told by iwi, complete with rich soundscapes, waiata and animated visuals.

The looping animated audio-visual experience, Under the Tanoa. Photo: Supplied

Three artworks were commissioned for the reopening, to honour the connections between mana whenua and Pasifika and in doing so uplift the mana of Te Ao Mārama. On the ‘legs’ of the Tanoa are twin artworks, Manulua, by Tongan artist Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi. These sculptures are based on an ancient practice lalava (lashing) used across the Pacific in traditional Island buildings, tools and vaka (canoe) as the means of binding together, symbolising the unity of all things past, present and future.

In the entrance to Te Ao Mārama, artist Graham Tipene has created a tomokanga, a pōwhiri threshold and gateway. Te Tatau Kaitiaki (The Guardians Gateway) has been inserted into two doors attached to the pillars that the visitor moves through as they enter and exit the space. The piece has a ceremonial role to play as part of the overarching tikanga of the space, and depicts two female figures, embodying the traditional voice of karanga or welcome.

On the ‘legs’ of the Tanoa are twin artworks, Manulua, by Tongan artist Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi. Photo: Supplied

The wāhi whakanoa by artist Chris Bailey will enable tikanga practice of whakanoa to be carried out, a vital and important element for the Museum. Sculpted from stone the wāhi whakanoa is a place where people are able to make themselves noa (common) after potentially coming into contact with taonga that are tapu. The two wāhi whakanoa, Hine Pu Te Hue and Rongo-mā-tāne, are placed one on each side so visitors can access them with ease on their exit from the South Atrium.

Te Ao Mārama will embody one of the Museum’s guiding principles: manaakitanga. As a space of arrival and cultural welcome, it provides a unique and explicit Mana Whenua welcome, emphasising the Museum’s connection to the cultural landscape of Pukekawa while acknowledging the dynamic ancestral and contemporary connections of Tāmaki Makaurau to the wider Moana Pacific.

Photo: Supplied

After being closed for 18 months, the South Atrium entrance will be opened to the public on Thursday 3 December. Visitors can also expect a new Museum Store, a museum bistro and café Tuitui, a Kai Room for guests who choose to self-cater on their visit, increased amenities, and the international special exhibition Brickman Awesome: Epic LEGO® Creations.

The space completes PHASE ONE of Auckland Museum’s seven-year visitor transformation projects. By its conclusion in 2021, 35% of the museum floor will have been transformed.



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