"An invitation for regional museum staff to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of Te Papa's collections included the condition that "wahine who are either hapu [pregnant] or mate wahine [menstruating]" were unable to attend.""Unable to attend" is the offending statement, this was modified into
"Te Papa insists the request is not an outright ban.
"If there are pregnant women who want to go on the tour we don't stop them. But we do prefer they respect the belief." Te Papa spokeswoman Jane Keig said."The belief is articulated as
"There are items within that collection that have been used in sacred rituals. That rule is in place with consideration for both the safety of the taonga and the women," Keig said.
She said there was a belief that each taonga had its own wairua, or spirit, inside it.
"Pregnant women are sacred and the policy is in place to protect women from these objects."I'm not saying that isn't a bad effort but where is the context and why was the email framed in the way it was. We do have a strong maori voice in Mutu who says,
"Margaret Mutu, head of Maori Studies at Auckland University, said women should not be offended by the request."
"The reproduction area is extremely powerful and can do damage to things that are not tapu. It's about the power of women, not about stopping them."
Mutu said the objects were obviously dangerous and the hapu they came from would have told the museum about how to treat them.
"They are tapu and pregnant or menstruating women are tapu. It would be very unwise to put the two up against each other."Now we start to get some idea of the world view where tapu 'go up against each other'. Protecting against offence in either direction is very important. This would be an interesting national discussion, we would all learn a great deal - but instead, because of the lack of mana in dealing with these taonga and views, we are about to have a three-ring circus.
FOOTNOTE - Lew at Kiwipolitico has an awesome response to the controversy and also Andrew Geddis from Pundit is fighting the good fight - this is great to see - strong advocates for maori actually battling in the trenches for maori.