Horowhenua District Council has officially opened an exhibition commemorating the help and support that the Māori Women’s Welfare League has provided to families in need for the past 70 years.
The exhibition Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko i Te Ora o Te Awahou – 70th Anniversary Celebrations Exhibition opened in Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, Foxton, on Saturday.
Council says it tells stories of quiet achievement in the local area – by generations of wāhine who have made countless efforts to support whānau, across the decades.
The exhibition will be on display in the Māpuna Kabinet art gallery, until Friday 10 December.
“With this exhibition, we aim to highlight the calibre of the women who contributed all their love in humble ways – for many years, and always in private – to support whānau and do the mahi,” says Te Awahou Māori Women’s Welfare League branch president, Tracey Robinson.
“We want to pay homage to those kuia, who guided us to uphold our values and respond to the needs of hapū, tamariki and mokopuna,” she said.
“These days we are of course involved in the kaupapa of our response to COVID-19 and the need for immunisation. Back in the day, we supported the development of wellbeing of tamariki and the women who needed help. The mahi by these wāhine was never really in the public eye, so it is time to shine the spotlight on this wonderful piece of history.”
She said the exhibition includes taonga from throughout the decades, including League uniforms, a pūreke (traditional Māori cape), trophies and tāniko woven items, plus lots of photos.
“We want to tell the stories of the birth and growth of the local branch, and how it fits into the national body,” says curator, Pip Devonshire.
“There are many intimate connections shared by League members and whānau with various taonga on exhibit, and we want to highlight those.”
“The Te Awahou branch of the League carry the kaupapa of the political development of the movement, throughout the decades. Today, immunisation is important. But all our past presidents have played their part in the political development of Aotearoa New Zealand. That’s how they upheld the mana of the organisation,” she said.
To put the stories together, Whaea Ani Watson and Ms Devonshire have had a number of conversations with those who have loaned taonga.
“We could write a book about the Te Awahou branch, and hopefully one day someone will come forward to collect and document all that history,” said Ms Devonshire.
“There is all the ground work that was done, and the connections that were made and the care that was provided by the League.
“To give just one example, there was a house in Jenks Street that supported many whānau over the years. But there is also the bigger historical picture, of mana whenua leaving their traditional homes to join the urban Māori migration.
“And there are the links with Whina Cooper, who was instrumental in creating the league. These are big stories to tell,” she said.
Exhibition: Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko i Te Ora o Te Awahou – 70th Anniversary Celebrations
Location: Māpuna Kabinet art gallery, Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom, 92 Main Street, Foxton
Opening: Saturday 9 October. Pōwhiri invited guests only, at 10.30am. Public after 1pm.
Timeframe: 9 October to Friday 10 December