Monday, July 13, 2009

Good Gottfried

When it comes to brilliant portraiture of colonial Maori, most go straight for the Goldie. Fair enough, but more recognition is due to Bohemian-born Gottfried Lindauer. While the Auckland Gallery is working on the Lindauer Project, I'm going to risk some potential C&D magnetism by posting up a bit of Lindauer's work from the Partridge collection, with commentary by JC Graham. Enjoy.

Tohunga under tapu

Tapu was one of the most deeply ingrained beliefs and religious customs of the Maori and one of the most interesting observances. The word tapu may be translated as sacred or forbidden, but the Maori tapu has a host of variations. There was a personal tapu and local tapu; tapu of one kind or another faced the Maori everywhere. It often served a purpose similar to some of the Jewish laws of prohibition and quarantine.

Priests, or tohungas, were imbued with the mysterious essences of the tapu because of their knowledge of ancient and potent karakia (incantations), religious ceremonies and their office as mediums of communication with the dread atua (gods). All high chiefs also had a strong personal tapu which prevented any common person eating out of the same food basket or using anything belonging to the chief.

The remains of the sacred dead and all connected therewith were highly tapu an anyone who had been engaged in handling the dead or bones of the dead would be extremely tapu and would not dare to touch food with the hands. Consequently such persons had to be fed in the manner shown in this picture.

The picture represents a scene in an old-time pa, the outer pallisaded fence of which, with its roughly carved posts, usually totara, is shown in the background. The tohunga is kneeling on his mats in front of a raupo whare in a remote corner of the settlement. This is his temporary dwelling, for to enter the other buildings would infect them with tapu.

The venrable tohunga in the picture was painted from life in the Wanganui district; the girl ia also a life study.

This is the first of the large canvases of Maori customs Lindauer painted for the Partridge collection and was done about 1902.

Fire making

This picture shows the method of making fire from wood by friction. The Maori was obliged to keep a fire constantly alight or else to kindle it by means of rubbing one piece of wood against another. Before long a groove was formed and the collection of dust at the lower end of the groove was kindled by the heat produced by rubbing the stick. Material such as some readily inflammable flax tow was then ignited and waved rapidly until it burst into flames.

It was an ancient custom that male and female must co-operate in this task, the woman holding the fire board steady. The best wood for this purpose was dry and well-seasoned kaikomako and the rubbing stick was a harder wood such as tawa.

An expert in bushcraft can obtain fire from a dry piece of kaikomako in a few minutes. The kaikomako is the fire godess' tree in Maori legend. Mahuika was the goddess, she had fire at her fingertips. To her the cunning Maui, half-god, half-mortal, went and cajoled from her all her fiery fingernails and toes, except one. This she refused him, and he by his incantations brought down a deluge of rain which threatened to extinguish the fires of Mahuika. The goddess, to save the remnant of the fire, threw it into the kaikomako tree, which holds it to this day. Wherefore it was that the Maoris sought out the kaikomako to coax the saving fire from its heart.

In the picture firewood and stones for a hangi, or cooking oven, are shown near the fire-maker ready to be lit when he has made the fire. The palisaded village and raupo houses are typical of the time when fire was made in this matter.

Te Hau-Takiri Wharepapa

Considered a particularly handsome man, Te Hau-Takiri Wharepapa was one of the last to cling to the ancient style of hair dress, as can be seen in this picture. His home was at Mangakahia, North Auckland. In the year 1862, he went to England with a party of chiefs in the ship Ida Zeigler. They all went to Osborne in the Isle of Wight to see Queen Victoria.

The romantic-looking Maori chief captivated the fancy of an English girl who determined to share his lot. They were married and she came with him to New Zealand. She lived with him for some years in North Auckland and then he bought her a home in Parnell, Auckland, where she lived until her death.

Te Hau-Takiri died at Mangakahia in 1920.

Tamati Ngapora

Tamati Ngapora was a cousin of Te Wherowhero, widely known as Potatau, the first Maori King. He was one of the first Waikato Maoris to embrace Christianity and became a catechist of the Anglican Church. He erected a stone church at Mangere and regularly held services there until the outbreak of the Waikato war in 1863.

Maoris living at Mangere and other settlements near Auckland were notified that they must make a declaration of allegiance to the Queen or leave these districts. The majority joined the rebels, Ngapora among them. He took little part in the hostilities and on the evacuation of the Waikato accompanied the tribes to Te Kuiti. He changed his name to Manuhiri (a traveller) on account of the Waikato having to occupy lands of the Ngati-Maniapoto.

Tamati Ngapora was at one time proposed as second Maori king in succession to his cousin. He was not chosen, but after the war exerted much influence in the King Country. Although he was unassuming and generous, the loss of the Waikato embittered him and made him stand out against any accommodation with the pakeha.

Tepaea Hinerangi (Guide Sophia)

The father of Tepaea Hinerangi was a Scotsman who married an 18-year-old girl of the Ngati-Ruanui, of Taranaki, who had attacked the Rev. Samuel Marsden's mission school in the north. They settled at Kororareka, Bay of Island, where Sophia was born. She married an Arawa man and went with him to the Rotorua district. She became famous in New Zealand and beyond under the name Guide Sophia as guide to the wonders of Rotomahana and the wonderful Pink and White Terraces. She spoke English fluently and with great charm.

The Maoris, like the Highlanders and the Irish, believe in matakite – second sight. On the morning before the great Tarawera eruption, Sophia was greatly troubled and told the proprietor of the local hotel that some great disaster was imminent, as she had seen the omen of death, the ghostly phantom war canoe, floating on the still, misty water of Lake Tarawera, the prow pointing straight at Tarawera mountain. This apparition always foretold disaster. Sophia could not be comforted and said she would never see the beautiful terraces again.

That night Tarawera mountain was rent in twain and the whole countryside devastated and the famous Pink and White Terraces completely destroyed. On that terrible night Sophia distinguished herself when with courage and endurance she gathered together and guided a large number of people to her own more sheltered whare on the shore of the lake.

With her occupation at Lake Tarawera gone, she moved to Whakarewarewa where she remained a popular guide until her death in 1911.