Maori elders greeted the dawn and then rubbed our noses in it!


A few minutes into the official opening of Whales | Tohora, a Maori elder told the invited audience that at one time her people were fierce hunters of whales. But, she said, the Maori have changed their ways and are helping the scientific community in New Zealand study the world's largest creatures.

Whales | Tohora is a new travelling exhibition that just rolled into Toronto. Opening at the Ontario Science Centre, the whale show includes two enormous, fully-articulated sperm whale skeletons, life-sized reproductions and a crawl-through model of a whale heart.
Objects in this 750 square metre exhibition include rare specimens from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa's whale collection, one of the largest in the world. In addition to the science and biology of whales, Whales | Tohora explores the cultural and historical significance of these creatures to the Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori) cultures of New Zealand and other Pacific island nations.
Early whaling provided many trading opportunities between cultures in this region, illustrated in the exhibition by harpoons, scrimshaw (whale tooth carvings) and other taonga (treasures). A large contingent of New Zealand officials including politicians, museum expertsand Maori elders came to Toronto to official open the exhibition. Beginning just before 8am in the parking lot of Science Centre, the Maori elders held a short spiritual ceremony before coming indoors to meet the media and the invited guests. Over the next hour the New Zealanders traded speeches, traditional songs and rubbed noses (traditional Maori practice of hongi) with their Canadian counterparts. Chief Bryan LaForme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation was at the event to welcome "his Maori brothers and sisters" to an area of the country "where the nearest whale was probably 1,000 kms away!"
The new exhibition Whales / Tohora is on display at the Ontario Science Centre until late March.

Cut lines
Top: Sporting traditional Maori facial tattoos Rhonda Paku, Senior Curator, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, stands with a tribal in front of a whale's head movie prop at the Science Centre. and Lesley Lewis, CEO, Ontario Science Centre. The fibreglass whale head was used in the making of the film Whale Rider. It is now used as a small theatre in this touring educational exhibition.
Second left: Matiu Rei (left) and Huia Winiata (right), lead Chief Bryan LaForme of the Mississaugas (middle) of the New Credit First Nation, through the new exhibition Whales / Tohora.
Second right: Just how big is a whale? There are two fully-articulated sperm whale skeletons in the exhibition.
Bottom: Matiu Rei (Maori Elder) listens as a New Zealand diplomat speaks at the morning opening of a new whale exhibition.


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