Indigenous | Auckland Museum

Unique piece of Māori history to stay in Aotearoa a bit longer

The historic Māori sail known as Te Rā is to stay at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum for an extra two years.

The only known centuries-old customary Māori sail in existence was supposed to make its way home in June to the United Kingdom to the British Museum, which had lent it for exhibitions in Aotearoa since July last year..

But due to popular demand, it is staying until mid-2026.

Auckland Museum’s curator pou arahi, Dr Kahutoi Te Kanawa highlighted the significance of the loan extension.

“Having Te Rā in Aotearoa for an extended period is a monumental opportunity for us to reconnect with and delve deeper into the wisdom of our tūpuna.

“The time we can spend with Te Rā is a gift to future generations who will continue to learn from and be inspired by this taonga,” he said.

The choice to keep it here comes as a direct response to the community’s engagement with the sail, including a long-term study by a research group led by Rānui Ngārimu.

Auckland Museum tumu whakare David Reeves said he was grateful the British Museum agreed it could stay longer in New Zealand

“This allows us even more time to celebrate and share this rare and significant taonga.”

“The mana of Te Rā is undeniable, and over the past six months, we have seen the depth of connection our community has felt with the sail. Through wananga held around Te Rā, we’ve also been able to see how invaluable in-person and detailed observation is for those wish to study, learn from and connect with this taonga,” Reeves said in a statement.

What is Te Rā?

Te Rā was made back in the late 18th century but the location or person who made it is still a mystery.

It stands at four and a half metres tall with a complex three-way pattern woven from harakeke. It is a reminder of traditional Māori skills and shows the history of Māori sailing and navigation.

According to the Auckland Museum, Te Rā was in use before being taken to Britain, due to its marks and signs of wear.

It is being displayed in the exhibition Te Rā: Navigating Home at Auckland Museum, where it will remain until August 2025, alongside an additional two sails created by Te Rā Ringa Raupā, in an exhibition called Karanga o Te Rā.

This was the first time Te Rā returned to Aotearoa, after being taken to the UK over 200 years ago.

Auckland Museum is seeking other places Te Rā can be exhibited following the display in Tāmaki Makaurau.