Tuku Iho Los Angeles engages thousands

Following its runaway success in Washington DC earlier this year, the Tuku Iho l Living Legacy exhibition wowed thousands more people during its 14-day stint at Venice Beach, Los Angeles.


From celebrities to Californian locals, Tuku Iho launched with a breathtaking kapa haka performance on the famed Santa Monica Pier, bringing passerbyers to a standstill.


Kiwi supermodel Rachel Hunter was among a host of US-based Kiwi stars who flocked to see a slice of Māori culture on display, as well as fellow Kiwi actors Millen Baird and Outrageous Fortune star Siobhan Marshall.


Hunter said it was cool to see "a little country at the bottom of the world" showcasing its culture in the United States.


The exhibition itself, which took place at Venice Beach's Rose Room, saw a fusion of traditional and contemporary displays with more than 70 precious works of art, in-situ carving, live tā moko (Māori tattoo), kapa haka and contemporary performances and presentations, and for the first time, included live pounamu (greenstone) carving.


Tuku Iho | Living Legacy project director, Karl Johnstone said the success of the exhibition highlights the interest people have in discovering more about international cultures and their artistic practices.


“Our exhibition in Washington DC was a great success and the Californian audiences have been equally enthusiastic in both experiencing and sharing their histories.”


Like in Washington DC, a carving was left behind as a gift following the exhibition, in the form of a 2.1-metre-high tekoteko, or carved ancestor. Made from a 4,500-year-old Kauri tree, the tekoteko was completed onsite by New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) master carver James Rickard, and gifted to the Tongva first nations community of Los Angeles.


Representing an important connection across the Pacific and inspired by a kōauau, or a small flute, Mr Rickard said the deity symbolises a common connection Māori and the Tongva people share in both life and death.


Mr Johnstone said it was a privilege to be able to share Tuku Iho with the American public at Venice Beach, Los Angeles' hub of creative and artistic inspiration.


"The aim of the programme is to not only share Māori culture and New Zealand, but to also learn as much as we can about other cultures and to create dialogue about identity and its importance to our individual and collective wellbeing."


Tuku Iho | Living Legacy is expected to travel to Japan in 2019 in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup.