He Tohu
Signatures that Shape New Zealand

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He Tohu is a new permanent exhibition at the National Library housing three of New Zealand's most significant documents. 
He Whakaputanga, the 1835 Declaration of Independence, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition. We were tasked with communicating the new He Tohu exhibit to young New Zealanders and connect with local iwi, schools, government, tourists and the man on the street.





The idea hinged around faces of key leaders who signed the documents over a century ago and with only a few faded old sepia photos as reference we presented these leaders as life-like oil paintings. Using the styles of famous New Zealand painters Charles F. Goldie and Lindauer in collaboration with members of the living descendants of Eruera Maihi Patuone, Te Rangi Topeora and the Kate Sheppard Trust. Throughout the co-design process, refinements were made to the facial features, moko, Huia feathers and appropriate colouring to ensure each image was accurate and honouring.






Adding a hand holding out a quill became a personal invite to a new generation of decision makers. It was great to be working with local artist Joseph Qiu, Watermark Creative, whose skill in digital painting could not only do justice to the master painters, but to the ancestors.

The exhibition has been a huge success and has created a new home for our most precious documents to be on display.