E Tū Ake: Standing Strong was developed as an international exhibition by Te Papa and shown briefly in New Zealand before touring to the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, followed by the Museo de las Culturas in Mexico City, and finally the Musée de la Civilisation, Québec, Canada, between 2011 and 2013. The hosting of E Tū Ake in Mexico City constituted the first phase of an exchange between the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) and Te Papa.
Created by Māori curators and exhibition developers at Te Papa, E Tū Ake was driven by the concept of tino rangatiratanga – or Māori self-determination over all things Māori, and took the approach of Māori “telling their own story”. It included traditional taonga (cultural treasures) alongside contemporary works with related strengths, providing a context to understand central Māori concepts, issues and debates with relevance for present-day Māori. Key to the interpretation strategy was showing the contemporary people and associated stories, together with their taonga, in order to portray Māori as a living and dynamic culture. The exhibition also dealt with strong political themes such as colonialism and the loss of indigenous culture, while exploring the historical Māori struggle for self determination, cultural revitalisation and restitution.