What the Deuce! | Pregnant women unwelcome at NZ Museum exhibit

01 November 2010
Te Papa national museum

One of the recent collections at the Te Papa national museum in New Zealand came with the doctrine that “wahine (women) who are either hapu (pregnant) or mate (menstruating)” are “tapu (forbidden).” The Te Papa spokeswoman, roundly embarrassed, said that the policy is based on Maori beliefs that some of the displayed taonga (treasured things) “have been used in battle and to kill people. Pregnant women are sacred and the policy is in place to protect women from these objects.” While feminists are indisposed towards cultural accommodation, the professor of Maori Studies at Auckland University insisted that they (taonga) “are tapu and pregnant or menstruating women are tapu. It would be very unwise to put the two up against each other.”

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