Te Piripoho, Mayor Rachel Reese, Ariana Banks and Jane du Feu with one of the pounamu featuring in the museum’s new exhibtion. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Treasured pounamu welcomed to Nelson


A collection of pounamu like no other has officially opened for viewing at the Nelson Provincial Museum.

More than 200 pieces of historical pounamu are now on display as part of the Kura Pounamu – Our Treasure Stone Exhibition.

Created by Te Papa, working closely with Ngai Tahu and other iwi, the exhibition features ancient and contemporary pounamu taonga from all tribal areas of New Zealand, including the Nelson Tasman region.

Kura Pounamu tells the story of this most precious of stones, its significance to Maori, and its enduring value from ancient times until today.

The collection features unique pieces including and extremely rare red pounamu, a toki (adze blade) which dates back to more than 800 years and a large touchstone, Te Hurika, which weighs 170kg.

Before arriving in Nelson earlier this month, the exhibition has been on display in Canterbury, France and spent more than a year touring China.

The welcoming piece for the exhibit is a carving out of pakohe, also known as argillite. The piece is named Tahu matau māhē (Hook, Line and Sinker) and was created by Nelson artist Frank Wells. It acts as host – welcoming both the touring exhibit and visitors who come to see the collection.

While the exhibition centres on pounamu originating from across New Zealand, Frank’s work acknowledges pakohe as a special taonga for the Nelson region.

Frank says the piece was originally made for an art exhibition where it was then purchased by Ngati Kuia, who have loaned it for the duration of the exhibition.

“Maori mythology and law have a lot to do with fishing and hooks, so I made this piece.”

Nelson is one of the seven pounamu source areas in the South Island; the only place the precious stone is found.

At the opening of the exhibition on Saturday morning, Mayor Rachel Reese said the collection was quite overwhelming.

“Thank you to those that had the vision to bring this extraordinary exhibition to Nelson.”

The collection will be on display at Nelson Provincial Museum until November 24.