Tuku Iho

International Touring Exhibition

About the project

An exhibition of time-honoured Māori artworks, Tuko Iho | Living Legacy features more than 80 pieces of art using wood, bone, stone and flax mediums, handcrafted by students and teachers at New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI). The exhibition is supported by an array of other art forms including kapa haka, in situ wood carving and tā moko (Māori tattoo).

In 2011, NZMACI renewed its commitment to the original legislation and philosophy, including its mandate to protect, promote and perpetuate Māori arts and crafts and culture. This renewed focus was followed by a succession of ground-breaking cultural projects including Tuku Iho. Tuku Iho is not only fulfilling its responsibilities under the Act, but is creating and developing relationships with other indigenous groups throughout the world.

Since 2013, Tuku Iho has exhibited in China, Malaysia, Chile, Argentina, the United States (Washington D.C. and Los Angeles) and Japan.  The benefits of the exhibition extend beyond cultural engagement, enabling strengthened political relationships between New Zealand and the host countries, the forging of education partnerships and international trade opportunities. Tuku Iho also adds strength, dimension and authenticity to the associated tourism offer – not just at Te Puia, but for Rotorua and New Zealand.


Tuku Iho | Living Legacy China - 2019 

The next tour will head to China exhibiting in Shanghai for a 15 day cultural exchange, due to open on the 1st of November 2019. 


Tuku Iho | Living Legacy Japan - 2019 

The Tuku Iho | Living Legacy exhibition travelled to Japan twice in 2019. Opening in Hokkaido, Sapporo in May and then returning to Tokyo in August. 


Venice Beach Los Angeles, Rose Room - 2017 

Following its runaway success in Washington DC, 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."


Washington DC, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - 2017

The hugely successful Tuku Iho | Living Legacy exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC ran from July 22 - 30. The Smithsonian is the most visited natural history museum in the world with over eight million visitors a year.

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

Tuku Iho showcased more than 70 Māori art pieces including stone, bone, pounamu (greenstone) and wood carving, weaving and bronze works handcrafted by students and teachers from the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI), based at Te Puia in Rotorua.

The interactive learning space where the exhibition was held Q?rius (pronounced “curious”), allowed visitors to experience an intimate and hands-on experience – with about 2,000 visitors a day regularly visiting Q’rius.

To promote the exhibition, Tuku Iho also performed kapa haka on the steps of the historic Lincoln Memorial, where many important events in US history featured, most notably where Martin Luther King Jr delivered his “I have a dream” speech in 1963. 

The kapa haka performance wowed a live audience of more than 1,500 people and proved a huge hit online, with more than 78,000 views.

Against the backdrop of more than 70 precious art works/taonga (treasure), a kapa haka group of 14 performed traditional dance, waiata (singing) and weaponry displays, while carvers worked on a six metre waka (canoe) onsite, tattooists showcased their craft of tā moko (Māori tattoo) to a long-wait list of expat New Zealanders and Americans, and presentations were given on Māori culture and the arts.

Contemporary performers Ria Hall, Rob Ruha and Tama Waipara also demonstrated the dynamic and evolving nature of Māori performing arts through their live, vital and passionate presentations.

As part of the exhibition, a partly constructed six metre waka was taken to the United States to be carved and completed onsite by NZMACI as an important symbol of connection across the Pacific. During the closing ceremony, the waka was gifted to the Smithsonian Institution by New Zealand Ambassador Hon. Tim Groser, to become part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.

Tuku Iho
Rio de Janeiro - 2015

Rio de Janeiro will host the Tuku Iho | Legado Vivo Māori (Living Legacy) exhibition in October 2015, coinciding with the city’s 450th anniversary of independence. The official opening takes place on Thursday 8 October and the exhibition will be open to the public from 9 – 25 October, housed at Galpão das Artes, Espaço Tom Jobim at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens.

Tuku Iho provides an opportunity for artists and performers to interact with Brazil’s indigenous peoples, schools, arts communities and exhibition visitors, providing insights about Māori culture and connecting the art to the people it comes from.

Alongside the exhibition, one of NZMACI’s esteemed carvers will be completing a tau ihu (canoe prow) as part of the exhibition, and three tā moko (Māori tattoo) artists will be working in situ at the venue.

Additionally, a vibrant schedule of live cultural performances will be performed at famous landmarks and Olympic venues around the city by a group of performing artists.

NZMACI will also work closely with the indigenous Kayapó tribe from the Amazonian region of Xingu, a large indigenous reserve. The tribe will make their way especially from the Amazon to take part in the opening of the exhibition and other official activities.

Tuku Iho Buenos Aires - 2015

At the most recent Tuku Iho | Living Legacy  exhibition, held in June 2015 in Buenos Aires, NZMACI worked closely with the indigenousWichí people of Argentina. Māori and Wichí carvers created carved works alongside each other, while a photographic exhibition – Live Legacy. Patrimony, Art and Reciprocity. Wichí and Māori people – served as a tribute to the two cultures. 

The NZMACI kapa haka showcased traditional Māori performing arts throughout the city in a number of performances including at ceremonies, schools and hospitals, and flash haka at iconic locations. Touch rugby games and live demonstrations of wood carving and a tā moko (Māori tattoo) were also held. 

NZMACI made history by becoming the first country to present its indigenous peoples in the Argentinian National Congress, alongside the Wichí, Coya and Guarani indigenous peoples – none of whom had ever had the opportunity to visit their own congress.

Following the July 2015 exhibition, Hayden Montgomery, New Zealand’s Head of Mission in Argentina wrote: “New Zealand should be very proud of what it has achieved in terms of promoting social integration and respect for indigenous peoples' rights and traditions. The strength of Māori within New Zealand’s society and economy never fails to shock people here. With the exhibitions and accompanying kapa haka performances in Buenos Aires we have been able to, in a very respectful way, showcase an intrinsic part of New Zealand’s culture and identity which helps to define who we are as a country and demonstrate an example for others to follow.” 


Tuku Iho Santiago Chile - 2015



Ministry for Culture and Heritage 

Tourism New Zealand

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Education New Zealand

Air New Zealand

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise