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Christchurch City Council Media Release 5 March 2002

Christchurch Art Gallery Receives New Maori Title

The new Christchurch Art Gallery has been honoured as ‘the wellspring of star-reflecting waters’ with the formal name Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.

The title has its origins in Waipuna, a reference to the wellsprings near the site of the new Gallery, and Waiwhetu, one of the tributaries in the immediate vicinity, which flows into the Avon River. Waiwhetu is translated as 'water in which stars are reflected'. Thus the Gallery is conceptualised as a wellspring (puna) metaphorically flowing into a local watercourse with which the ancient people of the land, mana whenua, were familiar.

Gallery Kaitiaki Maori (Honorary Curator of Maori Art), Jonathan Mane-Wheoki consulted extensively with iwi representatives, who considered a number of names suggested by the Gallery location before settling on the chosen title. The name was officially gifted earlier this year by Ngai Tahu after a discussion with the then chair of Ngai Tuahuriri runanga, Dr Te Maire Tau, a professional historian for the runanga and the region.

Ngai Tahu hold the customary mana over the Gallery site and local area.  Mr Mane-Wheoki says the naming process reflects the long involvement of local iwi in the development of the new Gallery, which has included the site dedication in 1996, and a subsequent site blessing ceremony. It also recognises the nearby site of the ancient seasonal papa kainga or settlement named Puari (to the north), and the urupa or burial ground (to the south).

“It is important that mana whenua are consulted in this kind of project and provided with the opportunity to engage with institutions like the new Gallery,” says Jonathan Mane-Wheoki.

Gallery Director Tony Preston says the Gallery is delighted with the new name. “We warmly welcome a Maori name whose origins and meaning are as apposite as they are poetic, and which is further testament to our ongoing and close collaboration with local iwi,” says Tony Preston.

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki says it is significant that one of the first exhibitions held by the new Gallery will feature contemporary art ‘stars’ of Ngai Tahu descent. The exhibition is intended to endorse the Gallery's Maori name.

“These artists will be honouring the Gallery, as it honours them.”

For more information: Gerard Blank or Keri Watts, Glass Tower Strategic Communications, Phone 03 365 1445 or 025 246 478

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