Te Maori (sometimes Te Māori in modern sources) was a watershed exhibition of Māori art in 1984 (later continued to 1985, 1986 and 1987). It is notable as (a) the first occasion on which Māori art had been exhibited by Māori (b) the first occasion on which Māori art was shown internationally as art. In retrospect it is seen as a milestone in the Māori Renaissance.
In the colonial period many Māori objects, including art, domestic objects and human remains (particularly Mokomokai) were widely collected by explorers, missionaries and scientists and were lost to the communities which had created them; largely they were lost to large European collection institutions such as the London Science Museum the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford. This alienation meant that Māori regarded many Pākeha (Western) cultural institutions with considerable skepticism and overcoming this skepticism to allow objects to be borrowed for exhibition made Te Maori a milestone.
The exhibition started at the Met in New York on 10 September 1984, Saint Louis Art Museum (February–May 1985), the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco (July–September 1985), and the Field Museum in Chicago (March–June 1986). Te Maori: Te Hokinga Mai, the New Zealand leg of the exhibition, toured Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, and finally ended in Auckland on 10 September 1987, three years later to the day after opening at the Met.
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Douglas Newton, chairman of the Department of Primitive Art at the Met, had no doubt that the exhibition would be a great success. He assured me of this months before the opening. But even he was delighted with the response of the media, of the people of New York and of the art world in the United States. When the Te Maori cultural group performed at the American Museum of Natural History there was no doubt something had happened. The audience was already won over even before the performance began. What they wanted was to touch Maori culture and Maori people to learn more and more and more. They were reaching out to us in a way that is difficult to describe.
- "Te Maori Exhibition remembered". scoop.co.nz. 2011. Retrieved 3 October 2011.