Ashleigh McLarin says she wanted to do the stories of the Maunga justice. Photo / Brodie Stone
The spotlight is on fabled landmarks Mt Manaia and Parihaka at Whangārei Museum’s newest exhibition.
Whangārei Museum curator Ashleigh McLarin, who moved to Whangārei earlier this year, said the landmarks were chosen for ‘Parihaka and Manaia’ because “a lot of people have connections to them.”
“I wanted to tell the historical stories, but then also bring it into the present day,” she said.
The mixture of contemporary and historical elements creates a space rich with stories new and old, and the voices of Hātea Kapa Haka playing over the speakers adds a captivating ambience to the gallery.
Archaeological maps, photographs from landscape photographer Alan Squires, local stories, historical photographs and old taonga [treasures] can be viewed.
Visitors are encouraged to contribute to the exhibition and note down their own stories, which will in turn build a public history record.
McLarin said the exhibition highlighted to her that “as we change, the stories are still there, but we’re adding to them.”
The exhibition zeroes in on Parihaka as a pā, an important archaeological site in Te Tai Tokerau that many people aren’t aware is rich with indigenous history.
McLarin worked alongside local kaumatua Taipari Munro, Te Warahi Hetaraka and Te Winiwini Kingi, who “really helped frame it and get that cultural guidance.”
She said the changes to the schooling curriculum reinforce how Aotearoa is ‘zoning in’ more on local history, and she hopes to highlight that in the exhibition.
“It speaks to a lot of people,” she said, “and I found that in a lot of the people that I talked to and collaborated with.”
This is the third exhibition that McLarin has worked on, and she said the experience has been “amazing”.
“Everyone was really passionate about it,” she reflected.
Local artists have also contributed to the project, with artistic responses featured downstairs at Kiwi North, and the main exhibition in the Mim Ringer Gallery featuring landscape photographer Alan Squires.
“Maybe you’ve heard snippets, but you’re getting a bit more of a place where you can go in and immerse yourself, and find another perspective, too,” McLarin said.
The exhibition is running until the end of February next year.