Consultation with source communities
Many of the taonga and idols that were taken by the missionaries and sent to Europe are now in European museums. In 2013 the National Maritime Museum acquired the collection of the London Missionary Society (LMS). The collection included many such important cultural belongings. Here we meet one ancestral belonging: Tane-Mata-Ariki te Toki a Rongo, the ceremonial adze of the god Rongo.
Toki, or ceremonial adzes, like Tane-Mata-Ariki would have been purposely removed from their homes through Missionary coercion. It is believed that these Toki were destroyed in front of villagers and condemned as tools of ‘idolatry’, objects used in the worship of idols.
The location of these taonga (treasured objects) in collections around the world suggests that the Toki were appropriated by Missionaries and sent to London. Here they were used to fund the future missions of the LMS, sold to collections, or institutions, or kept by the LMS in their own collection.
The missionaries rarely recorded information about the taonga, including who they were made by, what was their significance or purpose, or even where they came from.
During a consultation with source communities of Te-Moananui-a-Kiwa (Oceania) in 2016, ‘Tane-Mata-Ariki te Toki a Rongo’ was identified by a participant, Robbie Atatoa.
Robbie was able to distinguish the object through materials and features used in the design. Through these features we are able to acknowledge significant history and provenance.
Here are some of the details explained by Robbie:
- Papa’anga (geneology) held in the motif design. Carvings originating from Mangaia, from a certain time period onwards have this unique motif. This feature is located at the top end of the toki, where the stone is attached to the wood
Papa’anga, or geneology, held in the motif design
- Tikitikitanga (The K motif). This motif, shaped like a K, is unique to Mangaia / Mangaians and is today, also worn as a tatatau (tattoo). The motif is connected to a legend of two brothers, Raumea and Te Uanuku who fought back to back in a gorge, lashed together by coconut sennit to fight against their enemies.
Ka’a, bound coconut sennit
- Ka’a (bound coconut sennit) is a process of lashing. The cordage is plaited strands of coconut husk. The ability to lash is a highly prized craft and additionally used to identify the ta’unga (Master Craftsman) and ultimately the toki, through style and pattern.
Maurua, Star Compass
- Maurua (Star Compass) is located on the base of the toki. This is the mark which identified the ta’unga (Master Craftsman) to be Taniera Tangitoru. The Maurua contained markings of his three different tribes and was also tattooed upon his body.
© National Maritime Museum / author Jo Walsh and Natasha Vaike