Tokelau Expo – a different loan request

Tokelau Expo – a different loan request

A few months ago we received a rather unusual loan request, on the surface the request looked quite straight forward however on closer inspection  it was going to be rather challenging.

First of all the Community Mafutaga Tupulaga Tokelau Porirua had asked if they could borrow some of the Tokelauan taoga in the Te Papa Pacific Collection for a big Easter Festival held every two years, this year  organised by the local Tokelau community in Wellington. As the community isn’t an institution (which we usually lend to) and because they only wanted the objects for a few hours on Easter Sunday we needed to treat this request a bit differently.

The situation was discussed with the Pacific Curator, Collection Manager and Loans Officer to see how best we could accommodate theIslandcommunity . It was decided quite quickly that we wanted to support the community and enhance the relationships with the group. Further discussions followed concerning the selection of items, organising staff to be available to assist and deliver collection items in a safe and  timely manner.

After a few meetings it was agreed that 17 distinctive Tokelauan taoga, 2 historical images and a secure display case would be provided by Te Papa. This way we could guarantee a safe environment for the objects as well as letting the community reconnect with their treasures on such a special occasion.

Vaka (model canoe), Tokelau. Maker unknown. Acquisition history unknown. Te Papa
Vaka (model canoe), Tokelau. Maker unknown. Acquisition history unknown. Te Papa

A lot of planning, organising and hands on work were necessary to make this loan happen but it was definitely worth it and a great way to support the community.

On Easter Sunday everything was transported to Te Rauparaha Arena  Porirua for the Tokelau Community Culture and Career day Expo. This was seen as a very successful initiative giving the Tokelau people and the wider community the opportunity to share experiences with these unique taoga as well as profile Te Papa in the community.

Lyn looking after the Te Papa stall © Te Papa

And the best proof is to read what a member of the Tokelau Community has to say about the event:

“ People were excited to see the items in the Te Papa display case, and some shared some interesting facts about the Tuluma (storage container) and the Papa (weaving block) in particular.

The men especially, could tell straight away the quality of the Tuluma, where it was made, when it was made, and what type of wood was used to make it.  They shared that the Tuluma was a very significant piece of equipment for the Tokelau people back in the day, because it held and protected their livelihood – Fishing.  Anything from nets to hooks were kept in the Tuluma “

“..It is made to be water and air tight, with the aim that nothing would be lost, or damaged in that container, when a boat went under water…”  The tuluma is rarely used today because of the more modern equipment, and people were excited to see such a large one held by Te Papa.

The Papa, was small compared to some of the ones that the women have seen in the islands.  The weaving block is used to hold and wrap the flax around it to tighten the woven piece and keep it neat and tidy.

The Expo on Sunday ran from 2.30 – 6.30pm and it was an opportunity for the Tokelau people to network, mix and mingle and share knowledge in the different fields that were represented there that day.

Bands played, free sweets were given out, and there were competitions and prizes given out throughout the day. Thanks to marketing team we were able to give away 5 double passes to the Unveiled exhibition throughout the Expo. It was great!

Te Papa stall © Te Papa


  1. Thanks to Te Papa, especially all staff involved, in making possible this “different loan request”

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