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Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan – Travel in Style

Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan – Travel in Style

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  • Fri 13 Mar ’15, 10:00am – 5:00pm
  • Sat 14 Mar ’15, 10:00am – 5:00pm
  • Sun 15 Mar ’15, 10:00am – 5:00pm
  • Mon 16 Mar ’15, 10:00am – 5:00pm
  • Tue 17 Mar ’15, 10:00am – 5:00pm
  • View all sessions


MTG Hawke's Bay, 1 Tennyson St, Napier


All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Adult: $10.00
  • Students with ID, Seniors, Community Services Card holders: $7.50
  • MTG Friends: $0.00
  • Children under 15: $0.00

First time displayed: the spectacular wardrobe of an iconic New Zealander

From the moment Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan (1932-2011) swept stylishly into parliament in 1967, it was clear that New Zealand had found a fashion icon. The new MP for Southern Māori was to become the longest serving female MP. She was also the first New Zealand politician who truly understood the power of fashion.

This landmark exhibition will present a stylish and high-impact showcase of Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan’s unique wardrobe, focusing on the period from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. The exhibition also showcases the artwork of Ngāti Kahungunu artist Sandy Adsett, who provided striking prints for many of the garments included in this exhibition.

It is the first time this collection of fashion garments gifted recently to the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust by the Tirikatene-Sullivan family will be displayed.

Who was Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan?
- Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan (9 January 1932 – 20 July 2011) held Southern Māori for Labour from 1967 to 1996, following in the footsteps of her father, Sir Eruera Tirikatene.
- She was well known as she swept stylishly through Parliament while breaking barriers for women and Māori.
- She held the positions of Minister of Tourism, Associate Minister of Social Welfare, and Minister for the Environment.
- In 1970 she became the first sitting MP to give birth
- In 1972 she became the first Māori woman Cabinet Minister
- Raised at Ratana Pā and named by the Ratana movement's leader, she served her political apprenticeship as secretary to Sir Eruera and through involvement in Ngai Tahu business.
- Mrs Tirikatene-Sullivan is a member of the Order of NZ.
- The Southern Maori electorate that Whetu represented included not only the South Island but nearly the bottom third of the North Island and including the Hawkes Bay region up to the Gisborne boundary area.
- Whetu worked in the Hawke’s Bay region during her nearly 30 years of service.
- She is survived by husband Denis, son Tiri, daughter May-Ana and two mokopuna.
- She commissioned a large number of garments incorporating Māori motifs by contemporary Māori artists, such as Sandy Adsett, Para Matchitt, Cliff Whiting, and Frank Davis. She wore these at her many public engagements, and they were generally regarded as her signature style. For many New Zealanders this was the first time they had seen such traditional elements in a new context.

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