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Spotlight on Māori Culture in Los Angeles

Californians are set to come face-to-face with Māori culture this month, with kapa haka performers taking over the Santa Monica Pier, the film industry getting an intimate look at tā moko and a chance for residents to experience both traditional and contemporary Māori culture through the Tuku Iho | Living Legacy exhibition.

Following its runaway success in Washington DC earlier this year, Tuku Iho is expected to wow thousands more visitors when it opens in Venice Beach, Los Angeles on October 23.

Tuku Iho| Living Legacy exhibition at Washington DC’s world famous Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in July this year. Image courtesy of Shine PR.

The exhibition fuses traditional and contemporary displays with more than 70 precious works of art, in-situ tekoteko carving, live tā moko, kapa haka and contemporary performances and presentations, and for the first time, includes pounamu (greenstone) carving on site.

As well as turning the spotlight on Māori culture, the exhibition provides a unique opportunity for NZInc to showcase the country to California – with partners such as Tourism New Zealand, NZ Wine Growers, New Zealand Film Commission and Immigration NZ leveraging the exhibition to hold events showcasing what the country has to offer.

The exhibition will take place at Venice Beach’s Rose Room from October 23 until November 2. Following its huge success at the world-famous Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC in July, the Venice Beach outing is expected to achieve the same level of record-breaking visitor numbers.

More than 250,000 people visited the Smithsonian Museum exhibition, with over one million engaging with Tuku Iho for its duration in Washington.

As part of the associated activities, live kapa haka will be performed on the famous Santa Monica pier, the second most visited tourist attraction in Los Angeles after Disneyland, and where scenes from blockbuster movies including the Titanic and Forest Gump were filmed.

Tuku Iho | Living Legacy project director, Karl Johnstone says the exhibition is a significant opportunity to showcase Māori culture and traditions, but also New Zealand.

Developed by the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI), Tuku Iho presents more than 70 works of art handcrafted by students and teachers from NZMACI, based at Te Puia in Rotorua.

As part of the exhibition, a tekoteko (ancestral figure) will be carved on site by NZMACI master carver, James Rickard. When finished, the tekoteko will be named and gifted to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city of Los Angeles by the New Zealand consulate.

Tā moko artists will carry out the traditional tattoo artform on an expected waitlist of ex-pat New Zealanders and Americans, a series of lectures on Māori culture influences on life and arts in the present day are scheduled across the week, as are cultural exchanges with the first nations people of the greater Los Angeles area and live kapa haka on Venice Boulevard will provide a powerful visual highlight for visitors.

Well-known and accomplished contemporary New Zealand artists and musicians, Rob Ruha, Majic and Teeks will also feature as part of the live performances.

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

“The exhibition is a combination of traditional and contemporary disciplines and is a remarkable representation of the diversity and dynamism of Māori culture,” says Mr Johnstone.

Tuku Iho has been developed as an exchange-based initiative with the global community. Our culture and various artistic practices are a platform for building and strengthening relationships.

“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 well-being.”

Mr Johnstone says the kapa haka performance will highlight the “living nature” of the exhibition.

“One of their performances wowed a live audience of more than 1,500 people in Washington DC and the footage has also been a huge hit online, viewed more than 78,000 times.”

The exhibition has been made possible through the support and sponsorship of Manatu Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s Cultural Diplomacy International Programme, Air New Zealand, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Tourism New Zealand.

Following Venice Beach, Los Angeles, Tuku Iho will travel to Japan in 2019 as part of the lead up to the Rugby World Cup.


Tuku Iho provides an opportunity for artists and performers to interact with US society, schools, universities, arts communities and exhibition visitors, providing insights about Māori culture and connecting the art to the people and place it comes from. The exhibition’s guiding principle is to engage and connect with other indigenous cultures and to create dialogue about identity and its importance to our individual and collective wellbeing. Tuku Iho aims to inspire across a range of other platforms including the arts, policy and economic interest, and community. The exhibition also contributes to NZMACI’s core mandate to protect, promote and perpetuate Māori arts, crafts and culture. Tuku Iho is supported by NZinc including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT), Ministry for Culture and Heritage, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), Te Puni Kōokiri, Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) and Education New Zealand (ENZ).


- The Tuku Iho | Living Legacy installation will be featured at the Rose Room, Venice Beach Los Angeles from October 23 – November 2, 2017.

- The Rose Room, is located on Venice Beach where the installation will be showcased. Venice Beach is Los Angeles’ hub of creative and artistic inspiration. Venice Beach is the second largest tourist attraction to Disneyland.

- In addition to a collection of more than 70 Māori works of art, Tuku Iho features kapa haka performances, live contemporaryMāori music, live wood and stone carving, live tā moko (tattooing) and other presentations highlighting New Zealand’s Māori culture and art influence on life in the present day.

- A tekoteko (ancestral figure) will be carved and completed onsite as part of the exhibition’s live demonstrations. The tekoteko will be named and officially gifted to Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city of Los Angeles by New Zealand ambassador Hon. Tim Groser. In Washington DC, a six metre waka (canoe) was also completed onsite and gifted to the Smithsonian Institution where it will become a permanent part of their collection.

- The United States Tuku Iho tour started in Washington DC at the world-famous Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the Venice Beach exhibition will formally end what has been a hugely successful tour of North America. The United States Tuku Iho tour follows hugely successful exhibitions in China, Malaysia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

Updated on 4th October 2017