New exhibition challenges perceptions of the Pacific

Publish Date : 09 Mar 2020
New exhibition challenges perceptions of the Pacific

Stapley Farmer. Spearfishing at Ouvea Island, New Caledonia. 1960s. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1056-340.

New exhibition challenges perceptions of the Pacific (1)
Tonga, 19 December 1953. From: New Zealand Herald Glass Plate Collection. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1370-361-11.

Discover the people and stories of the Saltwater Realm at Waitui Ātea: Saltwater Realm.

This new exhibition displays contemporary artworks by Pacific artists and rare and unique Pacific items from Auckland Council Libraries’ Heritage Collections and other cultural institutions. 

Waitui Ātea runs from 17 March – 19 July at Auckland Central City Library and is one of a wide variety of free Pasifika events happening throughout March at libraries across Auckland.

Waitui Ātea highlights the people of the Saltwater Realm, an area geographically defined by the Pacific Region, and encourages visitors to think about the Pacific in a different way. This approach empowers and enables the Saltwater people to reclaim and define their world from their own perspective.

The exhibition conveys the Saltwater peoples’ rich culture embellished with custom and costume, their languages articulated in stories and relayed in chants, songs, dance and music, and their Saltwater homelands portrayed in images and brought alive by the Saltwater communities that call Aotearoa home.

Significant items on display include a sample book of eighteenth-century bark cloth collected on the voyages of James Cook and a Na Drua (double hull canoe). Other highlights are early alphabets and religious texts that are some of the first examples of language materials ever printed in the region, plus photographs, sketches and portraits documenting historic events, places and personalities. Children can engage with the exhibition through an interactive digital map of the Pacific featuring audio and photographs from Auckland Libraries’ Heritage Collections.

Waitui Ātea will also showcase artwork by leading contemporary Pacific artists Michel Tuffery and Fatu Feu’u and emerging Pacific artists Steve Hikaiti and Jason Porter. The exhibition will open with a poem by poet Daren Kamali, Senior Curator Pacific Collections, that will be recorded as a chant and played as part of the exhibition.

As part of Waitui Ātea, Te Matariki Clendon Library will also be exhibiting va’aalo (traditional fishing canoe) by artist Ioane Ioane and Te Manawa Library is displaying images from the exhibition.

Pasifika events at Auckland Council Libraries

From 1–31 March, libraries across Tāmaki Makaurau will also be offering fun, free Pasifika events.  A full list of events is available here, and some highlights are below.

Te Manawa Library is celebrating Pacifica Mamas in their exhibition of Cook Islands hats, fans and lei and don’t miss their Pacific Island Lounge - a talanoa conversation area inspired by the era of the '70s, Polynesian panthers, Westside stories heritage display and photographs by Samoan photographer Edith Amituanai.  Te Manawa Library is also offering adornments of the Pacific craft workshops making kahoa necklaces, tekiteki headpieces, elei stencil prints, ei katu headpieces.

Papatoetoe War Memorial Library is working with local community groups to offer Indo-Pasefika workshops, where participants can learn about both Pasefika and Indian communities through the sharing of information on traditional art, music and dance. Watch experts create colourful rangoli, henna and mandala alongside a weaving group and see talks and displays on Pacific tattooing, musical instruments and other crafts.

Head to Mangere East Library’s COCO-Nutshell Experience interactive sessions on scraping and extracting coconut cream to making oil and coconut cups (booking required), or wear colourful clothes, pop on a lei and get your hips wriggling at Glenfield Library’s Hawaiian hula workshop.  

Councillor Alf Filipaina, Chair of the Parks, Arts, Community and Events Committee, is excited to see such a diverse range of free Pasifika events being offered at Libraries Auckland-wide.

“This month Auckland Council Libraries has Pasifika events for all the aiga (family). Head along to Waitui Ātea to experience a new narrative for the peoples of the Saltwater Realm - threaded together through art and measina (treasures) from Auckland Council Libraries Heritage Collections.

"There are also craft workshops, talks, performances and a wide variety of children’s activities. Come along and get involved, it’s free and everyone’s welcome.”

Go to or pop into your local library to find out what Pasifka events are happening near you or to access Kura Heritage Collections Online at to see digitised taonga from Waitui Ātea: Saltwater Realm.

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