TangataWhenua.com is applauding Te Papa’s decision to advise pregnant or menstruating women against attending the Taonga Maori collection. However, the move has been critisised by, Deborah Russel, feminist blogger on The Hand Mirror blog, who has argued the policy had no place in modern society. (While we couldn’t find the “offending” comment online, here is a link to her blog.
I don’t understand why a secular institution, funded by public money in a secular state, is imposing religious and cultural values on people.”
We loved the critique of Russel’s perspective in Lindsay Mitchell’s blog who responded “Umm. What was that again?… Therein lies the difficulty. “Public money” is, in part, raised from people with “religious and cultural values”. Feminists are quite happy to use that money to further their own causes even when those causes clash with the values of the people forced to pay for them.” Enough said!
To get a different perspective read the thought-provoking comments below.
The Taonga Maori collection is not open to the general public and the request does not apply to them, this particular exhibition is open to other regional museums. In particular this rule was one of the terms Te Papa agreed to when they took the collection. Jane Keig, a Te Papa spokesperson told the NZ Herald that the policy was in place because of Maori beliefs surrounding the taonga Maori collection included in the tour.
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,” Keig explained.
However, Margaret Mutu, head of Maori Studies at Auckland University, said the policy was common in Maori culture.
Women cannot go into the garden, on to the beach or in the kitchen when they are menstruating.
“It’s a very serious violation of tapu for women to do those things while menstruating. Women cannot have anything to do with the preparation of food while they are menstruating.”
She said the exhibition rule was quite normal.
It’s just the way we are … It’s part of our culture, but it’s just one that isn’t well known and that Pakeha aren’t aware of.”
Women who plan to attend the tour on November 5 are expected to be honest about whether they are pregnant or menstruating as a sign of respect to Maori beliefs. So really TV3′s headline (the NZ Herald headline was similar “Anger at Te Papa ban on pregnant women“) is a little over the top ans there is no “ban” per say in place – just the hope that women will respect this cultural norm.
Mind you such rules are not extraordinary. While in India this was a standard rule when visiting Jain and Hindu temples and a quick Google search led us to Wikipedia’s link on the topic.
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