Exhibitions - Whakakitenga
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Takapou Whāriki Gallery

Motunui epa

Five epa (wooden panels), smuggled out of New Zealand 40 years ago, have been returned to Taranaki iwi Te Ātiawa and Ngāti Rāhiri hapū.

Shortly after their discovery in a swamp near Motunui, Taranaki in 1971, the epa were illegally exported out of the country, without the knowledge of local iwi and the government. They were later sold with falsified provenance documents to private collector George Ortiz.

The New Zealand Government made attempts to have the panels returned in 1978, 1983, 1985, 1995, 2005 and 2007.

In 2013 George Ortiz died. In 2014 representatives from the New Zealand Government and Te Papa travelled to Geneva and began negotiations with the Ortiz children for the return of the panels.

In mid 2014, the panels were returned to New Zealand and temporarily stored at Te Papa. On Friday 20 March 2015 they were formally returned to Taranaki with a pōwhiri at Ōwae Marae in Waitara and were then taken to Puke Ariki for care and safekeeping.