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A, E, I, O, U ... Forrester Gallery engagement and education officer Elizabeth King says items from the gallery's collection will be used to showcase the Māori alphabet. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

It is just like learning your ABCs.

Only instead of 26 letters, it is 15.

The Forrester Gallery will soon open an exhibition on the Māori alphabet.

The show, AEIOU te pu taka Māori – The Māori alphabet, explores the alphabet with items from the Waitaki Museum & Archive and the gallery that correspond with all 15 letters.

Items such as a taxidermy hoiho (yellow-eye penguin) and kiwi, orange pebbles from Moeraki, a recording of local children performing a waita (song), and artwork by Māori artists Ralph Hotere, Marilynn Webb and Ross Hemera are included.

Engagement and education officer Elizabeth King said the exhibition offered a different way of looking at the collections and the Māori alphabet.

“It’s a little bit different from going to a class,” Mrs King said.

The show was created by Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa, which commissioned artist Kereama Taepa to create artwork depicting each letter.

The Forrester Gallery bought the rights to the show, and was incorporating local stories while using the alphabet as a jumping point.

Mrs King was working with Te Rūnanga o Moeraki upoko David Higgins to tell Kai Tahu stories, such as that of Ārai-te-uru, the waka atua (canoe of the gods) that came from Hawaiki to New Zealand.

After becoming waterlogged in the Waitaki River, it struggled down to Matakaea (Shag Point) where it was swamped.

The crew was washed away, but the kaihinaki (food baskets) became the Moeraki Boulders and the orange pebbles found at Moeraki beaches were kumara seeds.

People of all ages were welcome at the exhibition, which would fill the entire upper floor.

Mrs King said it was important to make the effort to learn and engage with te reo Māori because it was one of New Zealand’s official languages.

“We should all be learning,” she said.

The exhibition will run from December 11 to February 7.